It was time to decorate the Christmas tree, and my four-year-old was beside herself with excitement. As the holiday approached, her energy seemed to reach new heights with each passing day. I had serious doubts about making it to Christmas with our sanity intact.
After stringing the lights, my husband got the big box of decorations out of the attic. I took my place on the couch to begin my usual holiday tradition of handing out the ornaments one at a time. My daughter oohed and ahhed over each one I took from the box, thoroughly enjoying the whole experience.
Then, as I was struggling to untangle an ornament from its tissue-paper wrapping, she looked in the box herself. Something caught her eye. She reached in and pulled it out as she said in an excited whisper, “Oooh, Mamma, look at this one! It’s a high heel!” I recognized it immediately. It was an ornament I had bought a long time ago.
A few years ago, my husband, our sons, and I took a weekend trip with my sister and her family. I was about 10 weeks pregnant at the time and I was supremely happy. After a prolonged struggle with secondary infertility, I was finally pregnant again. I remember feeling like a cat when it stretches and purrs, I was that content.
During the trip, my sister and I visited a local museum. There was an exhibit about shoe fashions through history. It was fascinating and we both enjoyed it. At the gift shop I bought a delicate glass ornament in the shape of an old-fashioned high heel. As I paid for it I rubbed my belly and fantasized that the baby I was carrying was my long-hoped-for daughter. I pictured the Christmases to come when she and I would hang the ornament on our tree together. I was beyond happy.
Two weeks later, the baby’s heart stopped beating and I miscarried at home in one of the loneliest experiences of my life. That year at Christmas I could barely contain my tears when I unwrapped the shoe from its tissue. My baby. My dream. Gone.
Five years later, I wasn’t even thinking of the shoe as I opened the box of ornaments. It had been three years since we brought our daughter home from China and all I could think about at that moment was how to manage her excitement level. When she gasped and pulled the shoe from the box, it felt as though my heart were exploding. Oh, my God, I thought, the shoe.
With the other decorations she had raced to the tree and hung them as quickly as possible, so that she could race back to me to get another one. Over this ornament, however, she lingered. She turned the shoe this way and that to admire it more closely. It was as if it spoke to her. She finally hung it in a spot where she would be able to see it from her seat at the table. She pointed it out to her father and brothers.
After we’d finished decorating and the boys had left to do other things, my daughter and I turned off the lights in the living room. We cuddled on the couch and talked about how pretty the tree looked. Then she asked me to come with her. She wanted to show me something. It was the shoe.
“Look, Mamma, look at this one. It’s my favorite,” she said.
I told her, “Sweetheart, I got that one a long time ago. When I bought it I dreamed about hanging it on the tree one day with my daughter.”
“Me, Mamma? You dreamed about me?” she asked.
My eyes filled with tears and I was unable to speak. I nodded my head silently. In my heart I felt the truth about our adoption after that devastating miscarriage. It really was her I was dreaming about so many years ago.