When my two girls were young, we would make the annual ferry ride on the San Francisco Bay from Vallejo, CA to San Francisco, CA. We would spend the night at the JW Marriott and explore the following day, seeing the sights and picking out the annual ornament for each of us.
Always in December, we would bundle up warmly because the air is cold and it's windy, too. Loaded with backpacks and purses to fill and lots of snacks and water, the four of us made the ride with Christmas Spirit. We would walk around the JW Marriiott, have dinner and go "home" early so we could rest for the next very busy day. The Marriott always makes us feel special, and adds to the "festive and special" nature of our excursion.
The next morning we would catch a cab or ride the cable car to the Wharf. We would peruse Fisherman's Wharf, stop and eat some crab, visit shops and museums, then hit peer 39. At the peer, we ride the carousel, see the aquarium, and the last stop is always the Christmas Store there.
Upon entering, the classic carols play, and often there are carolers on the peer. The unusual ornaments, thousands of them, are always a welcome sight to both adults and children.
One particular year, my girls were 4 and 5. They loved the Christmas Store and took hours to decide on just the right ornament to pick this year. My older daughter decided on a "My Little Pony" ornament, as that was her favorite toy that week, and my younger daughter decided on a bright red heart because she stated, "It loves me!"
So after we all picked out our ornaments (we continue to pick one each and every year!), it was time to return home on the ferry. The little ones were very tired, and surely will sleep through the ferry ride. But noooooooooooo.....
While waiting for the ferry, we sat on a bench looking out on the bay and taught the girls the carol, "Silent Night". The time passed very quickly. That was fun!
We purchased the tickets, got onto the ferry and were getting settled when my 5 year old said, "Can I hold my ornament?" My husband got out his backpack and handed her the pony ornament and she gently cradled it in her arms and smiled. My other daughter said, "Me, too, Daddy!" and he reached in for her heart. He then reached in a pocket. Then another and another and again in the main compartment. His eyes said it all.
I then searched my purse, my coat pockets, his coat pockets, my daughters' coat pockets, trying all the while not to look concerned. But she picked up on what was happening.
"Where's MY ornament? Where's my HEART?!!"
After we searched everywhere, we finally concluded that we must have left it on the bench when we were teaching them "Silent Night", which was ironic because it certainly was not developing into one!
After tears and sniffles and much comforting by both adults and her sister, I said I would MAKE a heart ornament for her when we got home and it would be special because we would MAKE it. It calmed her down a bit but she was still not happy. My older daughter decided she wanted to make an ornament too.
When we got off the ferry for the ride home in the car, we turned on the radio. The girls fell asleep immediately, one hugging her pony, the other hugging her "Wammie" (a stuffed lamb that had seen better days but was more comforting to her than words can say).
As we breathed a sigh of relief, I noticed the lyrics being sung on the radio. Tony Bennett never sounded sweeter.
"I left my heeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrttttttt
(da da da da dum..... da dum...)
in San Fran ciscooooooooooooooo" brought tears to both our eyes (because she DID!).
We never slept better, and making the heart ornament was so much fun that next morning. They loved the project even if it was just paper, wood and glue. They still hang on the tree today, and they were made with smiles and tears too.
Today "the little girls" are 26 and 27, and the memory lives on, the song getting more sentimental every year.
Here's to Hearts, Tony Bennett and Kids!
Happy Holidays Everyone!
P.S. Even though I'm unemployed this year and we can't afford to stay in a hotel or splurge on Christmas, let it be known that those paper hearts mean more than anything store-bought on or under the tree.
It's the real meaning of what Christmas is all about. It's the sentiment: the song of Bennett that holds the memory dear, the homemade ornaments that reminds me of the resoluteness and care that went into their design, the reason for the ornaments, the kids and their laughter and energy.
And yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And look! There's another one! And another one! Oooh! There's another one! I love red and white!