Little boy ruins classmate's handmade Christmas tree ornament in kindergarten class

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

I remember kindergarten like I remember yesterday. Going from spending my days with my mother as she cooked dinner and ironed my father's handkerchiefs to spending my days with a cranky, exhausted kindergarten teacher and a room filled with bratty kids was an adjustment I didn't make easily.

As Christmas neared during my first year in elementary school, the teacher announced we would be making handmade ornaments to bring home to our parents. She set up a long table in the center of the room to hold all the supplies we would need for our Christmas crafts.

There were blocks of clay roughly the size and shape of sticks of butter, plenty of paint, sequins, glitter, ribbons, and two large containers of water for us to rinse our paintbrushes as we switched colors.

I decided to make a wreath. I'm pretty sure it was the teacher's idea. After forming a butter stick of clay into a doughnut shape, I meticulously painted it green and pressed brass-colored metal sequins into it.

I was proud of my little wreath, and I only took my eyes off it for two seconds to fetch a red ribbon. When I returned to my post, my clay wreath was missing.

I searched furiously for it, but to no avail. My creation was gone. After several minutes of searching, I heard one of the other kids exclaim, "Here's your ornament."

He held my wreath aloft in one hand. It was misshapen and dripping with water. Someone had tossed it into the container of water where we were supposed to rinse our paintbrushes. Now it was ruined.

I got my wreath back, but it was hopelessly damaged. I can't even remember what happened after that. Did the teacher give me a fresh stick of clay? Did I take home my soggy wreck of a Christmas tree ornament?

The only thing I remember is crying for the loss of my art.

I'm sure I turned out a few more handmade Christmas ornaments after that incident, but I never felt quite the same enthusiasm for art projects as I had before my first creation got wrecked. I learned the hard way that sometimes things don't turn out the way you want, and it's best to just move on. That lesson has stuck with me ever since.

The joy of creating something is only matched by the pain of having it taken away. It's a risk we have to take when we create something beautiful. And, like that soggy wreath I made in kindergarten, sometimes our creations don't make it back to us in one piece—but that doesn't mean they weren't worth making in the first place.

That was the day I learned that not everything lasts forever. Since then, I look at all my creations with a greater appreciation and reverence because they may not always be around to appreciate.

It's an important lesson to carry with us throughout our lives and into whatever creative endeavors we choose to pursue. After all, you never know when it'll disappear in a flash. And there's nothing worse than losing something you love without warning, even if it's just a hastily formed Christmas tree ornament made of clay.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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