A Christmas Ornament

By: Gary Gray

It was the Christmas of 1989 that I recall most clearly. A bad year by past year’s standards; my father had passed away the previous August. I was depressed and quite certain that my family wasn’t in the most festive of moods at the start of the holiday season.

In her normal cheerful manner, my wife decided to perk the family up with the making of Christmas ornaments. One of the cute things she was working on was a Christmas wreath, made from gummy-bears. She borrowed a sample from our neighbor, Mrs. Bland (yes, that was her name.) It was a delightful little ornament, made with a thin wire, colorful gummy-bears strung carefully in a circle and a pretty bow tied at the top. Inexpensive too! Mrs. Bland had made this little beauty some ten years prior and when my wife borrowed it, we assured her that it would be returned intact as soon as we made our copies.

My wife set up shop on the dining room table. Lots of wire, plenty of ribbon, bags of gummy-bears and of course – the original, Mrs. Bland’s gummy-bear wreath. The little candy wreath must have possessed some unknown attractive power my wife and I were unaware of. The children were entranced with this thing. It was cute for certain, but somehow it never evoked in the adults the same sense of mystery that it did in the children. It was, by Mrs. Bland’s accounts, at least ten years old, thus older than our children were. The gummy-bears were hard and covered with ten years of dirt and finger prints, some were damaged and the colors faded. The wire was partially rusted; the ribbon on top was frayed.

It wasn’t very attractive but still, it was magnetic and making replicas was a task worthy of our efforts.

My youngest daughter was first to abscond with the ornament. In a panic, my wife scoured the house looking for it, finally finding it two feet above the floor, hanging limply from a limb on the Christmas tree. Afterwards, my wife made it a point to keep all the components out of reach of prying little hands, in the kitchen cabinet. Our youngest got a mild lecture on respecting other people’s property and the assembly work continued.

Again, Mrs. Bland’s gummy-bear wreath disappeared. We spent two more days of panic stricken search only to find that our oldest daughter had tucked it in her lunch pail and taken it to school. She admitted her transgression but; somehow, she never remembered to bring it home. So one afternoon I made a hurried after hours trip to her classroom and retrieved it from her desk. Our oldest got a mild lecture on respecting other people’s property and the assembly work continued.

The replica wreaths were beginning to pile up; ten-twenty-thirty. Finally the task was complete and assembly work stopped. We had on the table before us, in pristine condition, ready to be given away to all our friends and family, a box full of replica gummy-bear wreaths. My wife stored them safely away from the prying hands of the children.

We were proud.

Then, it happened again.

Mrs. Bland’s gummy-bear wreath disappeared. Another search was instituted. The children denied any involvement in the vanishing. Somehow, my wife and I doubted the validity of their claims; but, with no evidence, we found it quite difficult to accuse. The search continued for days. Mrs. Bland seemed to have forgotten about the wreath, or if she did remember, she was too kind to mention it not being returned. Exasperated, my wife exercised her only option and replaced Mrs. Bland’s missing gummy-bear wreath with one of the replica’s. With the return of a brand new ornament and a sincere apology. Mrs. Bland appeared to be satisfied. Still, we were embarrassed at having betrayed the trust of a friend and never felt good about the end result.

Christmas passed. The days crept by, then weeks and eventually the missing gummy-bear wreath had drifted from our minds.

Until…

One afternoon while doing house cleaning, my wife moved my son’s bed for vacuuming. Lying on the floor beneath the bed she found a rusty little wire ring with a tattered ribbon tied to the top.

She was livid!

When I arrived home from work that evening, she was sitting on the living room couch, her legs crossed, her foot twitching and with a scowl on her face. My son was sitting on the living room chair; his head hung low, his eyes sad. Lying on the coffee table between them was a hardened, dirty, grimy, faded, and with the imprint of a tooth mark on the remaining morsel, gummy-bear wreath. Mrs. Bland’s missing ten year old Christmas ornament had been found.

My son had no explanation.

“I dunno” was his response when asked why he ate Mrs. Bland’s ten year old Christmas ornament.

“I dunno” was his reply when asked why he had lied to his mother and father when we searched the house in panic a month before.

My wife and I huddled, away from the forlorn child.

“It’s kind of funny when you think about it.” I said.

“The poor little fellow has been carrying this guilt around with him for weeks.” She said.

“Let’s have him write a letter of apology to Mrs. Bland. It’ll teach him to be honest and to respect other people’s property.” We agreed.

We told our son of our decision. He was to go to his room, write a nice little letter of apology to Mrs. Bland and deliver it before supper. He tucked tail and waddled to his room. About thirty minutes later, he came out with a folded slip of paper. We placed his letter in an envelope and he sauntered down the street to deliver his apology, in writing, to Mrs. Bland.

It was a relief to have the miserable experience behind us. Our son had made amends for his transgression. The family was back to normal and our dignity was restored.

Life was good.

A few days later, Mrs. Bland stopped by the house. When we greeted her at the door, we found her with a huge grin on her face.

“I want you to see something.” She said, holding the envelope containing a written apology from our son.

She opened the envelope and removed the note paper. Unfolding the paper, she showed us what our son had written.

“Dear Mrs. Bland. I am sorry I ate your ten year old Christmas ornament.”

Life was good.