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Story by Mary Van de Walle, VP, Strategic Planning

Background Art by Danielle Agriopoulos, Senior Designer

A long time ago, when I was a spry twenty-year-old, I went on a trip with my friend Mike to Hawaii to visit a friend who was stationed in the army there at the time. 


It was the first time I’d been somewhere tropical. The first time I went snorkeling (not counting all my years exploring the mysteries of Paw Paw Lake in Michigan). The first time I was going on a trip without my parents in tow. Perhaps it was the limited budget of a twenty-year-old, but I thought an ornament of Santa in a hula skirt made a fine souvenir of such a momentous trip. 


A few years later, I was headed to Vermont in the fall with the best friend I made working at my fancy-schmancy new advertising job. This time, a moose ornament with lights in his antlers would come home with me. It was a reminder of hiking through the Green Mountains, fueled by crisp autumn air and a belly full of laughs and cider donuts. 


When I married my favorite person in Ireland, we found an ornament in the shape of a Claddagh while honeymooning in Connemara. It would be the first to grace our tree as husband and wife. Our travels would take us camping across Eastern Africa, to sailing the sun-soaked shores of Croatia, to the packed stalls of Old Delhi, and many, many places in between. Each time we made a game of finding the best ornament for our tree. 


When we had two daughters, they gleefully joined in the hunt. Adding a manatee from Florida. A wine glass from Italy. An orca from the San Juans. And so many others. 


Today, our Tannenbaum is bursting with ornaments. It’s turned decorating the tree into story time as we recall memories of our travels both as a family and from what the girls deem “the great before,” the time when they were just glimmers in Mom and Dad’s eyes. 


During COVID, this tradition made us even more grateful for the travels we had been able to enjoy and motivated us even more to see as much of the world as possible when it is safe to do so. The world is a magical place and the kids will only be kids for so long. I know one day they will inherit these ornaments from us. I hope it brings them great memories of our family they can share with their own kids. 

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