The Details Matter

Emily - Moraga, California
Entered on January 5, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in homemade Christmas ornaments. The labors of love that dangle from the scented boughs of my family’s Christmas tree –from the candy cane made out of loosely-twisted pipe cleaners to the paper plate angels bedecked in golden glitter –represent years of special memories. Many of these ornaments are far from perfect, yet each has its own story and they are all proudly displayed every December no matter their condition. The aura of joy that radiates from these creations of glue, ribbon, and paint binds my family together. Homemade ornaments connect families.

Last night, my family’s tree fell over, endangering our fifteen years’ worth of homemade ornaments. The tinkling of breaking decorations accompanied the dull thud of the tree. Imagining the extensive homemade collection decimated, I rushed to the family room. “It’s okay,” my sister told me. The only bulbs that had cracked were the store-bought blue orb of a faceless angel and a glass gift from a friend. The homemade ornaments were safe and my family’s Christmas memories remained intact.

Making a Christmas ornament especially for the family tree indicates a kind of dedication to the family –it is an investment of time, creativity, and care. When I have a disagreement with my mom or my dad, I need only to look at the wreath of my tiny handprints to be reminded of my parents’ importance to me. When I made that wreath in second grade, I envisioned a glowing smile of delight illuminating my mom’s face when she saw it. When I placed the hastily wrapped project in her hands on Christmas morning, I urged her to “Open it now!” She tore the covering from the mess of paper it contained. “It’s beautiful!” she exclaimed. And she meant it, too. My mother understood that I had worked diligently to make something that only I could give to my family. Our Christmas tree preserves this joyful memory of family unity.

Some think there’s no comparison between our tree and the trees that dominate shopping malls. They’re right. While the Macy’s tree is picture-perfect, our tree is a perfect picture of familial devotion that is sadly growing rarer in our individualistic, consumer-oriented society. On my family’s tree, hangs a jingle bell my sister made in preschool over ten years ago. It consists of nothing more than a bent yellow pipe cleaner and a section of an egg carton sloppily covered in green paint. When picking ornaments for the tree, we shove the dust-coated store-bought bulbs aside and reach straight for that green jingle bell. Anyone can hang mass-produced, perfectly painted, shiny balls on his tree. But only my family has the little green cardboard jingle bell. Our experiences, like our ornaments, are unique, and it is this uniqueness that ties my family together.

So I believe in details, details that distinguish my family from the bulk of humanity, details that unite my mom, my dad, my sister, and me.