Every year when we tightly close the last box of them to store until next Christmas, Im a little sad. Each one of them is entirely too exquisite to be held prisoner within the confines of a dark box for the better part of the year. They were created to amaze and delight, and it is hard to do that in a closet in a box.
To call these creations mere ornaments seems inadequate. They are Christopher Radko blown glass ornaments. During the last 30 years, we have collected about 400 of them. Every Christmas they have brought joy not only to our family but to many others who have visited our home.
Last weekend, my wife, Debra, and I set the beautiful ornaments free from their confines for another year. We hauled box after box of them into the living room. I was so excited I could hardly wait to open each one because when I do, its like opening a direct path back to my childhood memories filled with bright shiny colors, glitter and Old World whimsy.
Each year when I open the top, I expect to hear bells sound and music play. What can I say? Im still a child at heart!
They never seem to hold it against me for trapping them in complete darkness. Instead, they appear shinier and brighter than ever. Each one of them evokes a memory of where we were when we purchased it or who gave one as a birthday or Christmas gift.
Were very careful as we unwrap each one because they are extremely delicate sculptures made of blown glass that can break more quickly than a promise. Just to get them from the box onto the Christmas tree makes me nervous.
Within each piece of wrapped tissue paper lies an old friend. A snowman winked at me as I carefully picked him up while Im sure I heard a Ho Ho Ho! from one of the many whimsical Santas. Menageries of animals of all kinds come out to play and are so happy to be placed on the tree to glitter and shine among the twinkling lights.
Each year, the ornaments are placed on different branches next to new neighbors on the tree. They especially like it when they hang next to other ornaments not from the same box as them. After all, theyve already spent 10 months together.
These ornaments are truly magical and guarantee a smile from each person who stands in front of the tree. Their sole purpose is to be gorgeous, and they do so effortlessly, glittering against the lights.
Last Christmas, I entered an exclusive shop in the Atlanta area merely to kill some time while I waited for my son to get off work. Upon entering the shop, I was made to feel unimportant when placed up against the other wealthy shoppers in the store. I certainly didnt allow it to bother me as I looked around. A sales associate finally approached me to see if I needed any help. She continued to follow me, which drives me crazy, all around the elegant and upscale store.
A few times she tried to explain which companies had created various pieces of porcelain -- implying that I certainly wouldnt know. I wanted to tell her I actually owned some of the pieces she mentioned but, being raised right, I held my tongue.
That is, until I saw four lonely Christopher Radko ornaments. Each one was hanging from a single ornament stand on a lovely mahogany buffet. I glanced over to see if they were some I didnt already have when the sales lady looked at me and said with a sharp tone, And these are Radko!
Now, as I said earlier, I have a 30-year history with these gorgeous ornaments. I really didnt like the way she had made me feel and, acting from my ego, did something I normally would never do -- and that still doesnt make me proud.
I quickly looked on my iPhone to find a photo I had taken of our tree filled to the brim with Radko ornaments. I whirled around to show it to her. I can still see her face as she looked at the picture on my phone as I said, No, THIS is Radko!
Right then and there her whole opinion of me changed in an instant, but it was much too late. I left the store without purchasing a single thing.
Last February, as I was speaking at a Relay for Life function, I told this story. I shared it because I wanted to stress how we should never treat other people in that way. The crowd agreed because every one of them had been in similar situations.
After the program, a sweet lady who I didnt know told me how much she had enjoyed my presentation, especially the story of the shop in Atlanta. She went on to say she had some Christopher Radko ornaments she had collected over the years that she would love to give to me. She said she didnt decorate as much as she once had and knew I would appreciate the ornaments and share their beauty with others.
I told her I would love to have them, thinking she meant only a few. We made arrangements to meet up this past summer and the box she gave us had more than 30 ornaments nestled in tissue just like ours. I know its hard to imagine in this day and age but, sometimes when you least expect it, a kind and generous deed has the power to renew the way you feel about the world around you. This was definitely one of those times!
Decorating the tree this year with the Radko ornaments caused me to think about the actions of these two very different ladies. Beautiful things are meant to be enjoyed and shared, but the most important things in life are not material.
Although I adore each and every ornament we received from our new friend, the real thing that spoke to me was her unselfish and giving heart. There is no price that can be placed on that, nor any store that can sell it. The things that really matter most are not stored in boxes or hung on trees, they are stored in our hearts.
Join Mark at A Holiday Celebration sponsored by The Pilot Club at 2 p.m. Saturday, County Extension Building, 420 Peacock St., Cochran. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Call (478) 230-8379 or (478) 230-6938 for tickets.
Check out Marks web site at www.markballard.com, for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff and Marks 2012 holiday tees, prints, cards and his collectible porcelain plates!
Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.
Join Mark on Dec. 9 at Intown Macons Tour of Homes. While the tour of 10 homes on College, Orange and High Streets is in full swing on Saturday and Dec. 9, Mark will be at the Morton House (615 College Street) from 3-6 p.m. Dec. 9. For information, visit www.intownmacon.org or call 478-742-2190 or 335-4310.
Mark Ballards column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to email@example.com; or become a subscriber to Marks Facebook page.