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The Christmas Ornament

Her oldest son was heading off to college soon. Christmas seemed bittersweet.

By Shawnelle Eliasen, Port Byron, Illinois

As appeared in

"Careful!” I called from the foot of the stairs, watching my five sons lug their Christmas boxes down from our attic.

The older brothers helped the younger ones, and soon they were sprawled out on the living-room floor beside the bare fir tree.

There was nothing unique about the boxes—deep, red, plastic. But the contents? Precious cargo.

Every December since they were babies, each of the boys has picked out a new ornament to decorate the tree. After the holidays, we save them in the boxes for next Christmas. Sifting through the ones the boys had collected over the years was like going back in time.

This year, though, I wished I actually could. I looked at my oldest, Logan, sitting next to Gabriel, my second youngest. Not long ago Logan was Gabe’s size, but next year, he’d be off to college.

Gabe’s high-pitched voice grabbed my attention. “Hey, my box is almost empty!” he shouted. He peered into Logan’s box. “Logan’s is full!”

“That’s because I’m seventeen,” Logan said. “Come on. I’ll share mine. You can hang some on the tree.”

I settled into my favorite chair and watched Gabriel climb into his brother’s lap. He thrust his arms into Logan’s box and pulled out a fistful of white tissue paper. “What’s in here?” he asked.

Logan unfolded the paper, revealing a tiny brown rocking horse. “I chose this when I was three,” he said.

Gabriel reached into the box again and grabbed a red-and-green box.

“That one’s special,” Logan said. “I made it for Mom.”

The memory came flooding back. Logan, four years old, handing me that red-and-green box. My husband, Lonny, had taken him shopping that day to pick his ornament, and I wondered why Logan gave his purchase to me.

Then I opened the box. Logan had chosen a make-your-own-ornament kit—a heavy white glass globe with special marking pens. He’d drawn stick men and tiny candy canes, Christmas trees and hearts. In the middle, he’d written his name in his crooked, little-boy handwriting.

Logan. I couldn’t believe how quickly my little boy had grown. Lonny and I loved raising our brood of boys. Each one was unique, no carbon copies. But there’s something about a firstborn.

Every first for Logan was a first for me too. When Logan took his earliest, shaky baby steps, I held my breath and peeked through my fingers while he toddled and toppled. The day we took the training wheels off his Red Thunder bike, I clutched a box of bandages, just in case, and jogged beside him.

Then came high school. All the kids there had been friends since elementary school, and Logan, who’d been homeschooled, had trouble fitting in. So I packed notes in his lunch to encourage him, and we prayed together daily about it. Eventually, Logan made plenty of friends. Every new challenge he’d faced, we’d faced together. But this time would be different. He was leaving the nest, flying off on his own to college.

Just yesterday, he’d gotten the news he’d been waiting for. I was cutting paper snowflakes with Gabe and our youngest, Isaiah, when Logan walked through the back door, shaking the snow from his boots, the mail under his arm. His two little brothers ran over to him and clamored for his attention. “Just a sec, guys,” Logan said, tousling the boys’ hair.

“Mom, this came today,” he said, handing me an envelope, top already torn open, the insignia for Wheaton College in the upper left corner. It was Logan’s first choice. He’d applied for early acceptance. I pulled the papers out. My eyes settled on the word “Welcome” in large black print at the top. Logan had gotten in!