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An Ornament Exchange with My Family

This year we spent Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle's house. We always go there for dinner and a gift exchange and games. The game is always something that my uncle has made up. It's always a game that if you get the answer right, etc., you get to choose a White Elephant gift from the pile that everyone brought.

This year there was a new twist. Along with your gift you also had to - oops, I mean - got to pick one of my grandmother's ornaments to keep. My grandmother is still with us, but she moved into a retirement community this year and she couldn't take all of her things with her. She and her kids went through her stuff and picked out the Christmas decorations she would like to take with her and left the rest behind for the kids to sift through. After they chose what they wanted, what was left ended up in the slush pile that we all got to dig through on Christmas Eve.

We were all cracking jokes about the quality and condition of these misfit ornaments. Everyone kept "forgetting" to pick an ornament or two and had to be reminded.

When the night was over and it was time to head home my kids asked if they could have another ornament (they are really the only ones who have any sentimentality in our family, plus they're tiny hoarders and they can't pass up free shit). There were several left, so I told them it shouldn't be a problem. I helped them dig through the box to find something that wasn't too hideous - like the angel made from a corn husk or the dingy needlepoint Santa. And then all of a sudden I saw something that made my heart stop!

There amongst all of the shabby, broken, old and decrepit ornaments were two tiny treasures. Two little wooden ornaments that MY precious snowflakes, Gomer and Adolpha, had made for their great grandparents five years ago. (I know, because I always write the date on their ah-may-zing and adorable works of art that they foist on relatives.) Gomer had been a beautiful little three year old boy when he carefully painted the ornament. Adolpha had been barely one when she slapped a bit of paint on hers as well.

Would you put this beauty Adolpha made in the junk box?
"Grandma!" I shrieked.  "How could you?"

"What?" she asked, clearly confused.

I held up the ornaments to show her, "My children - your great grandchildren - made these works of art for you! And you just tossed them in the junk pile?? Like trash?"

"Not me!" Grandma said looking for an out. "Your Aunt Marcy!"

"Me?" Aunt Marcy cried.

"Yes. Aunt Marcy helped me choose to take and what to give away," said Grandma.

Aunt Marcy tried to smooth things over, "Now, Jenni, you don't understand. She couldn't take them. All of Grandma's ornaments match now."

"Oh they match now?  Well, I'm sooo sorry to hear that my little children's ornaments were too ugly for her tree!"

Grandma and Aunt Marcy gave each other a knowing look and then Grandma said, "Actually, it was Uncle Filbert! I remember now. He was the one who went through the ornaments. He did it. Aunt Marcy and I didn't have anything to do with it!"

How convenient for them to throw Uncle Filbert under the bus. The one uncle who wasn't there to defend himself. He's got a lot of explaining to do when he gets back in town.

In the meantime, Aunt Marcy is trying to make me happy. She rescued the kids' ornaments from the box before it headed for the Dumpster and hung them on her "good" tree. It's killing her to leave them there. It's also killing my little OAM (Overachieving Mom) in training. As soon as Aunt Marcy hung the ornaments on the tree, Adolpha said, "Oooh, yeah, those do not look good there. I would take them off. The tree looked better before."


  1. I would have reclaimed them for my own (or the kid's future) tree, because you know when Great-Gram no longer has any tree, those puppies are going straight in the shit can. Maybe even as soon as you turn your back on Aunt Marcy.
    I found some ornaments my siblings & I made 45 to 55 years ago while sorting my late Mom's personal effects this Fall, some of which I'd been missing for years. Seeing them again in the harsh light of maturity and downsizing, I kept a small handful and shitcanned the rest. Much easier to breathe with fewer piles of "shtuff" closing in on my overly-sentimental heart.

  2. A few years ago, I took my older kids artwork and handmade ornaments out of their keepsake boxes and culled through it.I framed the stuff I really loved(using thrift store frames) and pitched the rest.Their handmade ornaments look great as art-I put them out at Christmas as part of my decorations.
    The best part is I really enjoy the ornaments/art now instead of it sitting in a drawer.

    1. I love your idea of framing the stuff. I have lots of stuff that my, now grown, children made for our tree, but I dont really use them anymore, because we just do a small tree. I am going to do this with them...Thanks for the idea.

  3. Ornaments matching? People do that shit in real life? They would HATE my Christmass tree and the trees of my past. A few years ago almost ALL the decorations on my tree were construction paper cut outs that my nieces made. Now it's a hodge podge of personal ornaments. No matching or ridiculousness here. Just a visual celebration of my family and the love we share. I'd punch grandma and Aunt Marcy in the throat for sure!

  4. ugh i hate MATCHING ornaments.. i think that ornaments tell a story, and my tree has some from when my parents were kids, some from me and my brother, and many given as gifts or picked out at places while we were on vacation or somewhere memorable!

  5. Uncle Filbert is just like my grandma, when she moved from her house into a retirement home she actually gave me all of my kids' school photos back.

  6. Ornaments on a tree should NOT match--they should make you feel warm & cuddly!!

  7. Yep, I've been there too, on both sides of my family. When one Grandmother went into an Assisted Living facility she gave back not only handmade items, keepsakes and photos, but also just about every gift we had ever given her. (Most of which was still their original boxes or sporting their tags.) On the other side of my family, my 92 year old Grandmother still lives in her own home. However, one Aunt and one Cousin-In-Law take it upon themselves to regularly purge my Granny's superfluous belongings in an effort to "de-clutter". Somehow none of these items are ever things THEY have given her, but all the things I have given her. Framed pictures of my children always seem to get shuffled to the back of the bookshelf behind pictures of their children also.

  8. When someone's OCD requires that the whole tree matches, it's time to have a second tree for family ornaments that give you the warm fuzzies. Then everyone appreciates the holidays. I had all kinds of aspirations toward a tree that matched and looked magical. Then I had kids. At the moment, we have 3 trees and none of them match.

  9. Don't punch me in the throat, but if she doesn't want them... I mean think about how old she is. She has like 80 years (or whatever) of keepsakes. That's a lot of pressure if she's expected to love and cherish every one.

  10. Hahaha! I loved this story. We inherited some old crap ornaments this year - I had to let go of my anal silvery blue winter wonderland theme and let the babies hang the trash bestowed on us by Granny! Two handmade doll ornaments with wooly red hair - these things must be almost 60 years old. Well, Christmas Eve we woke up and one of the dogs had torn poor old Raggedy Anne to pieces. The cat must have knocked it down into the ruthless jaws of pup. Oh, well. I swear I didn't train them to do it!

  11. I totally would have taken the ornaments back for my own tree, seeing as your kids made them, but I did like the way you handled this with your grandmother and your aunt. Loved the guilt trip and too funny how Uncle Filbert got thrown right under that bus without anyone even blinking an eye, lol!!

  12. I'm so glad you posted a picture of the painted wooden ornament. It's absolutely precious!!!

  13. Superglue it to your Aunt's tree. Or make a replicate and superglue that one to it so she thinks it's stuck (but you really have the original safely tucked away). And be sure to let Aunt Marcy, Uncle Filbert and Grandma all know what you wanted for Christmas that you DIDN'T get so they can get you something to help with their guilt.