What makes a keepsake?

First Posted: 11/28/2009

Tis the season to buy and buy and buy.
If that sounds a little jaded, perhaps it is because over the years I have become a little too cynical about the supposed holiday season and all the spend, spend, spend to be happy mentality modern society seems to have developed.
I have to confess, though, every once in a while I run across something that makes me remember the fun and joy Christmas brought to me when I was a child.
Reading about some Christmas ornaments being commissioned by area organizations (the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, and Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care) was one of those things.
All three of those organizations are selling the ornaments as fundraisers, and they are promoting the decorations as keepsakes.
I started wondering about that. What makes these keepsakes, as opposed to simply something else that has to be stored away for 11 months every year?
First, the Mountain Valley ornament can be purchased as a means of memorializing or honoring someone close to the person making the purchase. I cannot imagine a more personal Christmas ornament, and these would truly be considered keepsakes.
The ones being sold by the chamber and the museum may not quite have the same emotional sentiment as those being sold by Mountain Valley, but it seems to me they would be treasured non-the-less.
Its not only the scene being depicted in the ornaments, but its the fact that years from now, anyone who buys one of these ornaments can hang it on their tree and Id be willing to bet memories of this year, of what was going on in their lives when they purchased the ornament, will come rushing back.
That is what makes these sorts of things true keepsakes, not to mention the fact that there really is a limited number of these ornaments being made not like those chains stores which sell keepsake ornaments that come off the assembly line with 20 million other copies of the same thing.
In my own case, my all-time favorite ornament was truly one of a kind. Its because I made it, when I was in second grade. It was simply a picture of a candle glued to a silver-backed little cut-out, and the idea was you could hang it directly behind a Christmas light and the candle would appear to be glowing.
It never really looked like it was glowing, but my parents hung that little ornament no more than two inches in diameter front and center on our Christmas tree that year. And every year afterward. When I was 35 and returned home to visit for the holidays, there it was, hanging on the tree. And every time I would see it, for a few seconds I would be transported back to those days when my biggest concern was what Santa would bring me.
That is a true keepsake something that brings back memories and feelings when you see it.
I think the ornaments being offered by those three agencies would certainly fit that description, and I hope many of you will make a point of picking up one, or two, or maybe one from all three of the agencies.
And if you cant quite swing the cost, sit down and make your own, or help your kids make one. It doesnt really matter how nice it looks, because the memories will hide any blemish in the craftsmanship.
Believe me, I know. When others look at that old second grade ornament I made all those years ago all they see is some crooked craftwork with too much glue still evident. But to me, I still see it the same way I did when I was seven, and Christmas comes alive, as it did when I was a child.

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