My mother was great at finding Christmas ornaments with special meanings. Every year she would send my kids each an ornament. One year she was especially on target. Andy had taken up the trombone and his ornament was a little trombone. I had started quilting and she found, for me, a beautiful lone star quilt ornament. Ray got a wee golf bag with tiny clubs in it. Emily, who was about 9 that year got a birdcage with a little bird in it. Emily had gotten a parakeet earlier that year and she adored her bird. The bird would sit on her shoulder and sing while she practiced her piano. It was pretty cute. Sadly, however, and unbeknownst to her grandmother, the bird had suddenly died just a couple weeks before Christmas, so when Emily opened her little birdcage ornament, her lip began to quiver and her eyes got teary and she said, very sadly, "I guess Grandma didn't know that my bird died." There was a heavy silence in the midst of the Christmas morning activity, then Andy brightened up, held up the ornament and said, "No, I think Grandma did know." Closer inspection revealed that the tiny bird, inside the cage, which had obviously been glued to the perch at one time, had fallen off and was lying on its side at the bottom of the cage. Looked pretty dead. We looked at it mournfully for a few minutes, then I heard Ray stifle a snicker. Then I caught his eye and started to laugh, trying mightily not to. Pretty soon we were all laughing, including Emily and then we were laughing so hard we had tears streaming down our faces. We hung the dead bird ornament on the tree and everytime anyone would look at it all that Christmas day we would be off into uncontrollable laughter once again.
My mother felt horrible when I told her the story. She, of course, did not know the bird had died and had sent the package off with the bird still on its perch. What kind of a grandmother, she asked, would send her grandchild a dead bird ornament?! We assured her that after a few bad moments Emily had seen the humor in the situation, and furthermore, appreciated her grandmother's loving attempt at a special ornament. I tried to attach the bird to its perch with tweezers and a little glue on a toothpick. It didn't stay, so the dead bird ornament remains as it is and is carefully hung on our tree every year. Next year it will go to Emily to hang on her own tree.