We still have some wooden Christmas tree ornaments that little DD and Gunny painted when she was 4 and he was 6. When I look at them I can remember the two of them, in a rare moment of harmony, sitting at the kitchen table intently painting those simple wooden ornaments, and how proud they were when we hung them on the tree (and for many years thereafter).
When Gunny was stationed in Japan for a year about 6 years ago, we went to North Carolina to celebrate Christmas with DIL and their children. We rented the condo we always rented in May (I was amazed at how much different the ocean looks in December, compared to May!), and then went about making the condo “Christmasy.”
We took the kids (DIL was working long hours, as the new General Manager of the local Lenscrafter store) to a “dollar” store that also sold things that cost a little more than that, where we bought a $10 artifical Christmas tree, construction paper, kid’s scissors, glue, tape and glitter. I also helped each of the kids do a little shopping of their own (while the other two were entertained by Grandpa somewhere else in the store) — picking out a gift for each of their siblings and Mommy, and then they each picked out a roll of wrapping paper that would be just for their gifts. When we were done, we hurried back to the condo (because they were EXCITED to get started!) and for the next couple hours, the kids cut out Christmas tree, snowman, snowflake and ornament shapes that they then colored and “polished off” with glitter (veryyyy festive, but also veryyyyy messy!), to decorate the tree. And, our sweet little Carolina red-head (I have to specify, because we have a sweet little Chicago red-head too!), who was about 7 at the time, took on the project of making a red and green chain for the tree. She spent hours cutting strips of the paper (or having her “assistant,” Nana cut the strips FOR her) and then taping them into interlinking circles to make a lonnnnng chain that we used to finish off the tree. When the tree was done, it touched my heart. Everything on it had been made by those three precious children — a tree can’t get any better than that!
By the way, while their Mommy would be there to enjoy the tree they had “hand” decorated, we wanted to help them make something for Daddy too. So, I had brought blank puzzles with us (found at an education supply store) for them to personalize for Daddy. Each of them drew a picture for Daddy on a blank puzzle, and then we dis-assembled their puzzles, put them in envelopes and mailed them to their Dad. Certainly not the only gifts Gunny Dad received way over there in Japan that year, but I’d guess they were the most memorable ones, because they were made by his children!
Three years ago, we had a similar experience with DD and Georges’ oldest two girls. DD and George went to Hawaii at the beginning of December (Having a tan at Christmas isn’t something that happens very often in our family, but they had one that year!). They left baby Mimi with their long-time babysitter in Chicago, and the two older girls (7 and 5 at the time) came to our house for a visit.
So, we set up a tree (the same one from North Carolina — we’ve gotten our $10’s worth out of that tree!) in the corner of the sunroom and gave the girls the same kind of “tools” we had used at the condo (less the glitter — we’d learned our lesson there). They have a little play table and chairs that they use when they are here, so we set those up in the sunroom, and they went to work! They cut and cut and cut, and then they colored and pasted and looped (yes, they made a chain too), and finally, they hung everything they had made on the tree — and it was beautiful! (Of course, the room looked even more beautiful after the girls picked up the hundreds of little pieces of construction paper that had flown all over the room during their “creative frenzy.”) Once again, we had a whole tree to enjoy that was completely decorated by precious little hands we loved.
We took them shopping too. Memorably, after I had taken the girls to do most of their shopping, Papa took them to shop for gifts for me! When they came home, Lulu came over and sat on my lap, put her arms around my neck, pulled my head close, put her forehead against mine, looked right into my eyes — AND ALMOST KNOCKED ME OVER WITH THE SCENT OF PERFUME! And then she whispered, “You’ll never guess what I bought you, Nana!” Of course, I had a pretty good guess, but I didn’t want to spoil her surprise, so Papa and I just exchanged knowing smiles. (He always was a sucker for a perfume counter when he was buying me a gift.)
So, my point is — the absolutely most “beautiful” and memorable Christmas tree decorations we have ever had, will always be the ones decorated by the children we love most in the whole world.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the blessing of grandchildren, and the special memories they’ve given us. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.