Way back when we were sprightly young college kids, we took a little trip. It was the Nabor House Ski Trip, and it involved a couple dozen people, a bus, a lodge and a long drive to Colorado, and it deserved its capital letter designation. It also involved a last-minute decision to forgo the bus and drive ourselves, which led to my experience of riding across Kansas in the middle of the night in the back of a Mustang with four other people, which, as God as my witness, I hope to never do again. Nothing against Kansas per say (which happens to be two states west of here) but it was more the feeling that I might freak out if I didn't get out of that car and re-extend my legs pronto.
This is all very much beside the point, except to say that was the first trip my soon-to-be husband and I took together. And at some point between skiing and falling, we wandered into a gift shop and bought this ornament. Then we put this picture in it.
We loved it. A tradition was born. And on our honeymoon, we bought this little beauty.
And this one, which wouldn't have come to be if the fuel pump on our car hadn't gone out at approximately 5 p.m. on a Sunday in Nashville. Which may or may not have had something to do with my running said car out of gas the week before. Not that anyone's mentioning that anymore or anything.
A few years later, we went out east for a friend's wedding. Our first real vacation, and our last without kiddos. We brought this one home.
And then our first vacation with baby…and fabulous young farmer friends, to the Lake of the Ozarks. And no, we didn't really take the baby on the jet ski. But she would've loved it. Because that's the kind of kid she is.
Then, a fun but slightly-insane-in-retrospect trip to Hawaii for the American Farm Bureau meeting, again with fabulous young farmer friends. That was back in the day when the husbands were all on the Young Leader committee. Good times. The slightly-insane part was that we took along our one-year-old, and one of our friends took their two-year-old, and our other friends did not take their son but still actually hung out with us and our insanity. Because nothing says fun like a toddler on a nine-hour flight.
Our first trip-without-friends – just us and our kids – was to St. Louis. We did the zoo, the waterpark, the Magic House. It was so fun. Our little ornament tradition became complicated when we couldn't find one. Instead, a little frame. But it's kinda heavy. We hang/perch it on a big branch and hope for the best.
A couple years later, a trip to Chicago for the Illinois Farm Bureau meeting, and our Achievement Award win. Definitely wanted to commemorate this one, and since I was hugely pregnant, why not with another picture?
That trip led to this one. AFBF in New Orleans. Good times. **Note to self: never take children who can read to New Orleans. Also, maybe never take children who can see.**
And of course, Santa Claus, Indiana. With my family in southern Illinois, this was an obvious vacation choice.
And this space, right down here?
This is where there should be a picture of the amazing ornament we got in Michigan last summer, at the Christmas store right on the highway home. Except we forgot. Which may have been related to our pukey child clutching his sister's sand bucket in the back seat. Good times.
The point to all this? Our tree will never be a fabulously decorated or themed tree like those fancy magazine ones. But every time we unpack the ornaments, and look at them on the tree, and pack them away when it's all over, we get to remember some pretty fun times. And often, some pretty fun friends. And that's really worth a whole lot more than a perfectly decorated tree.