Shattered Christmas Ornaments

A gift in a strange package helps fill one family's tree with holiday cheer.

Posted in , Dec 1, 2007

A red Christmas ornament with silver glitter

It was a strange Christmas package: a large plastic mailbox.

A present from Susan, a woman I'd worked with. "I didn't have a box or a gift bag, so I packed your gift in that," Susan explained, giving it to me outside my office that morning. I tried to laugh. I could definitely use some cheering up, especially after the night that I'd had.

It was supposed to be the big night for our Christmas tree trimming, and I was determined to make it extra-special this year. My husband had walked out on my three kids and me just a month earlier.

I'd gotten a tree that was 10 feet tall, so big I couldn't even fit it through my door. I sat on my front porch, garden shears in hand, trimming the branches so I could squeeze it in.

When we got the tree set up, I noticed a tiny crack in the stand. But I tested it and it seemed fine. I popped a Christmas CD into the stereo and the kids and I took turns hanging the glass ornaments we'd collected over the years.

"I like the red round ones with the silver sparkles," my daughter Sierra cheerily announced. "I like the ones shaped like candy canes," my son, Justin, chimed in. My oldest, Whitney, just smiled.

It took some work, but the kids and I trimmed a gorgeous tree. I went to bed that night feeling more content than I had in months.

A crash woke me up—the sound of glass breaking. I bounded out of bed, flipped on a light and peered into the living room. The big tree lay on its side, surrounded by shattered ornaments.

I cried as I carried the pieces out to the trash. I called a neighbor to help me set the tree upright again and the kids and I rehung the surviving ornaments, but it looked empty. As empty as this Christmas feels.

The next day I went to work in low spirits. Not even Susan's oddly packaged gift could help. I brought the box into my office and shook it gently. Something rattled inside. What's that?

Carefully, I opened the little door and poured the contents on my desk. A dozen glass Christmas ornaments. Exactly like the ones we'd loved so much.

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