Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Things to Cherish

Amid all the planning, shopping, baking, wrapping and partying, the holidays are a time to cherish the things that mean the most to us.

Some of these things are big picture things, such as meaningful work, a warm home, family and friends to share it with, and happy memories.

Some of these things are specifically task-related, such as creating the perfect cookie and dodging a curious, semi-skeptical child's tricky questions about Santa.

And some of these things involve dusting off our favorite possessions and displaying them for another year. It seems the older I get, the less I care about acquiring possessions (exception: books!) and the more I treasure the family things that remind me of someone or have a story associated with them.

Case in point: In the winter of 1979, I arrived in Moscow on the coldest night there since Napoleon's time, a shocking 49 degrees below. It was New Year's Eve and after putting on every piece of clothing we had brought with us, we young American students headed out to Red Square to ring in the new year by dancing big circles arm-in-arm with a crowd of Russians in front of Lenin's tomb.

Russia was still Communist then and we were a little nervous because Russia had just invaded Afghanistan a few days earlier, but that was the government, not the people--who were as friendly as one could hope for. So friendly, in fact, that our official trip motto became "We can sleep when we get home."

Besides amazing memories of the week I spent there, I brought back some lovely souvenirs, and the most treasured one is this delightful box of Christmas ornaments.

Here is "Father Frost" doing his New Year's duties by giving sweets and toys to the children. The words mean "Happy New Year!" (No St. Nicholas and no Christmas for the Communists, remember, but the traditions continued with great enthusiasm under other names. And check out the shape of that piece of evergreen Father's got stashed in his hat. The censors must have gone to lunch early that day. Or maybe they snuck out to do a little New Year's shopping.)

I fell in love with the label and would have bought the package regardless of the contents. But oh, inside . . .

Aren't these lovely? I hand carried them on the journey home, the box tied shut with twine, and carefully stashed them under the seat for each flight, making sure not to put my feet on them. They made it safely across all those time zones without a single one being broken. Now they are my favorite thing about Christmas decorating, not only for their beauty (a bit worn, now) but for the happy memories.

And so a small possession turns out to be a big picture thing, after all. Isn't that what we love about the holidays, anyway?


  1. I know what you mean. I grumble every year that I'm not putting the tree up, but then the boxes of ornaments are drug out and the memorie that have been boxed up are remembered again. Then our tree once again becomes the most beautiful one in the world because it's filled with a lifetime of memories.

  2. I love the ornaments and the story to go with them. I would cherish them too. We always by ornaments when we go on a trip (usually road trips--nothing so exciting as Russia) and then we relive the memories while we decorate the tree.

  3. Oh how amazing! I love this story..and what an experience. My favorite decorations are the one's that have some kind of meaning like that:)

  4. Okay, I had to start over because I got stuck on 49 BELOW the first time around. Anyhoo, I just think the ornaments and especially the box are fantastic. What a gem, and what wonderful memories! I can see why you love them.

  5. My eyes got huge when I saw "49 degrees below". I am whining and complaining about the lows in the teens here. Obviously I need to shut up. :p


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