Every year, since I was an infant, my mother bought a tree ornament for her children during the holidays. As an adult, I have over 28 ornaments, with my name and the year it was given to me marked on it. We have continued that tradition for our children. Andrew has ornaments for every year since 1990. Joe has them starting in 1994. This year, as I was imagining our children decorating the holiday tree (fake tree for a couple reasons), I realized that our newest son, Dennis, wouldn't have ornaments of his own to hang. This will be his first winter with us as an adoptive family. My spouse went out and bought eight ceramic ornaments and some acrylic paint. We spent a couple evenings hand painting each one. Now our newest son will have enough ornaments to hang, although they will all be dated 1998.
The time to decorate for the holidays came upon us quickly. We brought up the box of holiday decorations, and let the children unpack the items within. For the most part, my husband and I just stepped aside as they decked the halls. Err, living room. Dennis had two holiday decorations that came with him. One was a stuffed snowman, that says "Happy Holidays" when squeezed. The other is a German favorite, Santas within Santas within Santas toy. A Nesting thing. He shared who he had received these gifts from, and what he could remember about past holidays. Our birthsons gave explanations of where the tiny ceramic Santa’s and Yule log candle holder came from, and who had made the reindeer out of logs and sticks. Each treasure was explained, remarked on, and handled before the boys found a special place for it in the living room.
Then, it was time for the tree.
Every ornament had a story with it. While our birth sons talked about the year they received an ornament, I talked about what kind of things Dennis must have done when he was that old. He seemed particularly delighted to imagine himself at one, taking off pretty ornaments before a grown up could stop him. Dennis hung his new ornaments with care. In fact, all of his were hung pretty high in the tree, probably to keep them out of reach of visiting toddlers. Pretty soon, the house was transformed into a celebration of winters past, present, and future.
We can't give Dennis the years he missed in our family any more than we can take away the years he has acquired before we became an adoptive family. So we are acknowledging the past as we celebrate the future with our traditions.