In my recent newsletter I wrote about creating new traditions for the holiday season. As I’m creating new tradition, I also realize I’m carrying traditions forward too. Though I don’t have children of my own, I do have children in my life. It’s important to me to create new traditions with them, while also carrying some traditions forward which helps me honor those I love.
My Grandma’s Tradition
From what I recall, my Grandma made or bought an ornament for all her grandchildren every year. I don’t ever remember opening these ornaments. Maybe she just handed them out? I don’t know how it all happened; I just know we got ornaments every year. I doubt I got too excited about these ornaments (similar to the sentiment I observe with my nieces and nephews!).
I don’t know her intentions in giving out these ornaments every year and, unfortunately, I never bothered to ask her why. It wasn’t about her — so that we’d remember her every time we decorate the tree. (Although, that’s exactly what they are about.) Was she thinking about our trees in the future, the ones we put up in our own homes with our own families? Was she thinking about those first few Christmases and how our trees might be a bit bare? I wish I knew what she was thinking; I wish I could ask her.
When I realized I didn’t have any ornaments to decorate my tree, I finally began to appreciate them. There were a few years when I didn’t even have a tree but I still put these ornaments up, decorating a plant stand in my studio apartment.
With more sewing knowledge now, I’m very impressed with her work. I mean, one is a mini-mini quilt! And the cross stitching — it’s beautiful. So, year after year, I pull out these ornaments and decorate my tree. I think about my Grandma and the thoughtfulness she had to gift these to us. She was a smart, caring lady.
Carrying Forward Her Tradition
In 2015 I bought myself a new sewing machine for my small quilting business. The machine has the capability to sew letters. While I was testing out the new features, I made little ornaments for our nieces and nephews — nothing fancy, just their name and the year. I didn’t take pictures of theirs, but here is what ours looks like.
At first I didn’t intend this to be a tradition, but as Christmas approached once again, I decided to make ornaments. Here we are closing in on Christmas 2019 and a few weeks ago we finished the fifth set of ornaments.
Did you catch that… we? For the first four years I made the ornaments on my own with fabric and my sewing machine. However, this year I wanted to collaborate with Brad. He has all the tools for wood and carving, so I thought we’d do something different.
The 2019 Ornament
Earlier this year we had several branches removed from a tree in our backyard. They were cut up and laying next to our deck. Each time I saw the logs I thought it would be cool to make something out of them — so that’s what we did!
I selected a log and Brad tested out a few different sizes using his chop saw. Then he pulled out the drill press for the holes. Now, at this point I would have just free handed letters onto the wood, but that is not how my husband works… I didn’t know I was testing our marriage when I suggested we work together on this project! Haha!
I found some stencils and traced the letters onto the circles. We borrowed a dremel from a friend to carve out the letters. Then realized we didn’t have the right attachment for carving in wood, so after ordering the correct attachments, we finally started carving.
It’s harder than I thought it would be! The “going against the grain” phrase now makes a lot more sense to me. When I was trying to carve the curves it was very challenging. The dremel wanted to bounce around!
Once the letters were all carved in, we bought some red paint and I very carefully painted the insides of the letters. And then I was very proud of myself when I realized we could lightly sand the tops to get rid of my mistakes! 😉
Brad sprayed several coats of polyurethane to protect the wood. I cut up some leather strips and ta-da… here are the 2019 ornaments.
More Than Ornaments
As I carved and painted letters, I thought about each person. I thought about who they are and who they are becoming. I remembered moments spent together over the past year.
I thought about how some day they’ll need ornaments on their mostly bare trees. I thought about how much I love them. And then, it dawns on me why my Grandma gave us ornaments year after year — love.
By carrying traditions forward, I’m carrying my Grandma’s love forward. I’m beginning to realize that my love as an aunt is just as important as hers was and is.