This month we’ll be sharing stories about various holidays that we do-or-do-not participate in, do-or-do-not enjoy, and do-or-do-not recommend for others. Happy Decemberween

grinch, how the grinch stole christmas, dr. seuss,

Last year thieves ruined every single future Christmas of my life. Partially. They destroyed 10% of the enjoyment of Christmases yet to come the night they stole our van.

The van itself was a rusted, clunky blue monster that we bought for a couple thousand dollars. Neither my husband nor I were sad to see it go. Insurance said they wouldn’t pay us a dime to cover the theft and we didn’t have money to get another vehicle, but we weren’t that upset. Late December of last year was frigid cold and we thought that maybe someone had stolen the van to have somewhere warm to sleep for the night. We assumed that the van would turn up on its own once it ran out of gas.

What sent me into a panic was what was inside the van. We had transferred our holiday decorations into the back to move over to storage, including every single Christmas ornament we had ever received. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I loved those ornaments. There were homemade ornaments that our nieces and nephews had made us when they were tiny, others we made ourselves when we were kids, several were given to us for our first Christmases, some had pictures of pets that had passed away inside them, one was made from the dried flowers of my wedding bouquet, and my favorites were the wooden Santa’s, nutcrackers, and snowmen that my parents painted together when they were first dating. Every last one of them were irreplaceable and magic. Even the commercial ornaments were special. My mom bought me a Hallmark ornament every single year of my life and I could remember unwrapping almost all of them.

cat tree, photo

A happy cat, pre-thievery.

All of the warmth from those memories would make my heart grow ten sizes each December when I hung them on the tree. It would take me back to being a kid, listening to Christmas records with my family and carefully removing the tissue from each heirloom. Because that’s what they were: heirlooms.

For my daughter’s first Christmas I was stoked to start up holiday traditions with her. We got her a stocking from the same knitter that made stockings for everyone else in my extended family (stolen), I got her an ornament to start that gift tradition (stolen), and so on. The essential holiday tradition that I was excited to share with her was hanging the family ornaments on the tree each year and telling stories about where they came from. But we were robbed of those experiences together.

We barely cared about getting the van back, but we hoped that whoever it was would leave the ornaments behind wherever they abandoned it. The majority of the decorations had no monetary value and would probably get rejected even from a secondhand store. They were valuable only to us.

A month later the police called to say the van had turned up, and when we got to it every last shred of the ornaments were gone. They’d stripped the blue monster of anything of value, left trash all over the floor, then deserted it.

I went around to different thrift stores in the area to buy back any of the ornaments that might have been donated, but I did not find a single one. Most likely they were thrown out.

It’s almost a year since that incident, and I’ve had my grieving period. What I’ve taken away from the experience was how having those handmade ornaments was incredible, and it’s something I will recreate for my family. Any holiday tree is magic when you cover it in memories.