This article was written and submitted by the Welsch family.
The tradition started nearly 20 years ago. My husband and I had just had our first child. We were living on a graduate student budget, which meant there wasn’t money for extra things, and I wanted a Christmas ornament for our new baby. While doing laundry an idea crossed my mind. I found one of his first baby booties he had worn, stitched his initials across the top and hung it from the tree. It wasn’t a fancy ornament but it would do for now. Shortly thereafter a daughter was born and I repeated the process for her and for our third child after he was born. We hung a trio of tiny baby booties from our tree each year. As the years passed and their feet grew and grew, those booties became some of the most special ornaments we hung. Each year our children were amazed that they had actually worn them. That their feet had been that small.
Christmas of 2002 was a special year for our family. Our children were now 9, 13, and 15 years old, and God had given our family a special gift. I was pregnant with our fourth child. As we decorated our tree that year we grew excited when we realized that the next Christmas a fourth bootie would be hung on our tree. We were overwhelmed with excitement over the baby and all that would change in our lives.
March 24th 2003. A day we will all remember with sadness in our heart. Our precious baby, Clayton, died unexpectedly at birth due to a knot in his umbilical cord. In a matter of minutes, our world had fallen apart. How would we recover? The hospital staff knew how important pictures, locks of his hair, and footprints would be to our recovery. Their help in those first few days will always be so much appreciated. They couldn’t possibly know everything we would miss about Clayton, though. A day or two after his birth, our daughter broke down in tears. She realized that Clayton would never wear a pair of booties and therefore would never have a baby bootie ornament hanging from our tree. As it turned out that wasn’t so. We had a whole dresser full of clothes waiting for Clayton’s arrival. We picked out a pair of booties and instructed the funeral home to place them on his feet before the funeral. When our family arrived for the funeral, we had some time alone with Clayton. The first thing we did was to look at his feet. Sure enough, he was wearing the booties. They had touched his feet and now we could make an ornament out of them.
We hang our favorite four ornaments from the tree each year. They get a special place up front. Even though Clayton is not physically sitting under the tree with us each year, his ornament is a reminder that he will be in our hearts forever.