I guess I've decorated at least 30 Christmas trees in my life. And there is one ornament that stands out above all others. It has been my constant favorite since I first started decorating trees.
I still look for the 35-year-old ornament on my parents' tree every year. It is a tiny wooden train: a little black engine pulling a bright yellow car, a bright green car, and a perfect little red caboose. And I love the memory associated with the train — even though it isn't my memory.
My parents bought the ornament on their honeymoon. They eloped on Christmas Eve. They have only one picture from their wedding night, and I don't know if they have any pictures from their honeymoon. But each year the little train reminds us of a special anniversary that tends to get lost in the holiday season.
Nine years ago, my husband and I were married in a small, perfect ceremony surrounded by friends and family. We have two dozen professional photographs in an album somewhere, and another small album of snapshots from our honeymoon. I can't remember the last time we looked at any of those pictures. But when we decorated our tree last week, a tiny red and white lighthouse ornament brought back memories of our wedding and honeymoon. And our son was enchanted by the lighthouse!
SustainaKid began asking the story behind every ornament. Some were gifts, some we had made. And several are vacation souvenirs.
In fact, the first ornament on our tree this year was the memory from this year's staycation. I was surprised a 5-year-old went for the sedate museum building instead of the dinosaur skeleton ornament, but a memory is a memory!
He loved the alligator ornament from his first trip to the beach (which he does not remember!):
He did remember choosing an ornament at Disney last year:
In Jamaica, we couldn't find any Christmas ornaments, so we have a keychain hanging on our tree!
And my husband and I have our own little train ornament to remind us of our 30-something mile hike along the Gold Rush trail in Alaska. We rode the train back to the start of the trail and I have never been so grateful to see a form of transportation in my entire life!
This simple train ornament brings to mind the amazing scenery along the trail in Alaska and Canada. It reminds me how my wonderful husband helped me finish the hike that I was so not prepared for! And it makes me hope that I can get in shape to do the hike again when my son is old enough. It also makes me wonder if I'll be telling my grandchildren about this train ornament when it is 35 years old!
As we strive to reduce the clutter in our home and focus on the things that matter, this vacation ornament tradition that I picked up from my parents' train ornament helps our family strike a great balance. When we go on vacation, we can choose souvenirs that will hold a treasured place in our home for many, many years. We're not wasting money on junk that will go straight to the landfill, we're not filling space in our home, and we are mindfully honoring the memories that are important to our family.