To winnow means separating the wheat from the chaff. These days, it can just mean that someone is separating some things, practically anything! Just this past week, we had our own winnowing here, and it was actually quite moving.
We were going through our Christmas ornaments.
Ever since my wife and I got married, we’ve made a point of getting at least a couple new ornaments, every year. We always tried to have a theme: Our First Christmas, Star Trek, Baby’s First Christmas, Our New Home, Star Trek, Tweety and Sylvester, Harry Potter, Star Trek, The Lion King, Star Trek and so many more. You may be noticing a continual theme. Back with our first tree, most of the ornaments were the standard generic stuff: glass orbs, icicles, and simple lights. Then, little by little, year by year, the tree became more unique, more us. We also had the goal of building up a stock of ornaments for our daughter, as we knew there would come a day that she would move on, and have a tree of her own.
That day arrived.
Funny, I didn’t think it would come quite so soon. As with so many aspects of our life with our daughter, time truly seemed to slip like sand through a sieve, or maybe a cruel hourglass. She was off at college now. She had a place of her own and it was time she had something with which to decorate her Christmas tree. As we got rid of our old tree, we had to downsize our decorations.
Now we were living in a small apartment. Our big old artificial tree had to go. It was too tall for our living room. This year, we have a tiny tree and a tiny tree does not have much room for ornaments.
Hence the need for to winnow.
This year, as we unpacked the decorations, we began the selection process. We had to winnow our collection down. Our small tree can only hold so many, and there were the ones our daughter needed. There was the Universal Studios ornament that we got on our Honeymoon, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice decoration and, of course, the most important of all: the crystal teardrop one that my aunt had sent us for our first Christmas. I thought of that ornament this year, as it was celebrating its centennial. You see, it had been a wedding present to my grandparents when they were married back in 1912. It made me smile to see it go up on the tree; a hundred year old ornament that had gone through three generations of our family. As my wife and I put the decorations aside for our daughter, I thought of how, one day, that delicate ornament would move on to the fourth generation.
It’ll find a good home with her.
As we gathered those decorations for her together, we swept back to some of the events that inspired their purchase. Her dance lessons, the cruise on the Big Red Boat, going to Martha’s Vineyard, fencing, and, of course, favorite movies, books, and TV shows. All of her youth bound up in a few mementos.
We finished the winnowing. Yet, in our case, there was no chaff; there were only sweet “grains” of joy.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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