“A good life is a storied life…”
This is a meaningful message from one of Jonathan Field’s Good Life Project podcasts. I first played the podcast just after decorating the Christmas tree with my husband and three children. We had the wine and hot chocolate flowing and the holiday tunes blaring. And I realized that stories are indeed what give meaning and richness to our lives.
I absolutely love our Christmas tree. It is far from a Martha Stewart masterpiece. Instead, it proudly displays an eclectic assortment of ornaments that have been collected from our travels and significant events over the years. Each ornament tells a story. These stories move me. They lead my children to ask me each year about the places I have visited and the family and friends I miss. We smile. We laugh. We sing. We reminisce and reflect about the people and experiences that bring us vitality, connection, and joy.
One of the oldest ornaments is the plastic Granddaughter ball decorated with a rocking-horse motif, circa 1981. Like many things from the 80’s, it is big and fun and glam. It was gifted to me by my beloved grandparents, now deceased, who were my salt-of-the-earth small town heroes and the people who taught me the meaning of unconditional love.
There is a tiny framed photo of my baby number one, whose birth revitalized Christmas with innocence and magic. Next to it is my husband’s wooden outhouse – a funny reminder of the cherished camping trips he has taken with the children each summer. These excursions spent immersed in nature remind us of the simple pleasures. We talk about the biking and the hiking and the canoeing and how blueberry pancakes never tasted so good...
Some of the ornaments represent favourite sports and activities. There is an action figure on skis, a frog ballerina wearing a frilly pink tutu, and a couple of beautifully-crafted miniature figure skates. The kids share highlights from memorable ski trips, hard-fought tournaments and breakthrough recitals. We make plans for holiday recreation and dream of the future stories we will tell.
Then there are the travel memorabilia: ornately-painted balls from a small Indian village in the foothills of the Himalayas; the tiny elephant from Thailand; the New Orleans frog jazz musician; the hand-blown-glass-necklaces-turned-decorations from Santiago; and the stained glass stars from Barcelona. With each piece, I awaken memories. I picture an awesome mountain sunset, a little cobblestone street or an inspiring artist at work. I taste spices and dance to the music in my mind. I replay snippets of conversations with strangers that created the touching moments of fleeting intimacy I love.
This is my Christmas tree. These are my stories. And our stories weave together to craft the fabric of our lives. Here's to writing ones we want to tell.