By definition, "ornament" means something that lends grace or beauty. "Ornamental" is defined as "of, relating to, or serving as an ornament." So "ornamental" means something relating to grace or beauty. So why is one of the antonyms of ornamental "functional?" Something that lends grace or beauty isn't functional?
There is a reason this word is stuck in my mind today. I have tried for the past 20 years to keep organized track of what ornaments we have that adorn our tree each Christmas. (TRY being the operative word in that last sentence!) The ornaments were mine from before I was married, they were Rob's before we were married, they are ours from the past 21+ years of our married life, they belong to Brett, and they belong to J. Kay. A couple of them actually belong to Nic. I acquired a few this year that previously belonged to my mom and dad. Some are ones that my Grandma Newbury made. She beaded several bells and a couple of Eastern Star stars.
Before everything goes away until next December, I'm going to give one last shot at my organization. I'm going to know to whom each of these ornaments belong. Maybe even from where they came. I'm going to try my hardest, anyway. I'll be taking photos and writing on ornaments for the rest of the day.
So this brings me back to my original question: Something that lends grace or beauty isn't functional? The definition of functional is something that is "used to contribute to the development or maintenance of a larger whole."
The ornaments we have for our tree aren't all beautiful by the dictionary definition. They aren't what most people would consider beautiful. But nearly every ornament we own helps to tell a story of our lives. To tell a story about our likes and interests, our ages and capabilities, our pasts and our futures. They are an extension of each of us as individuals and as members of our family.
THAT is beautiful. Our family is beautiful. Our family might not be like your family. We're unique. We're quirky. We function well as individuals and pretty well as a whole.
So those ornaments, that are an extension of us as individuals and an extension of us as a family, are functional. Each tells something different from a different time. Each helps us relive a time of our lives we may only relive once a year. Some make us laugh. Some make us cry. All tell stories of our lives, which are beautiful.
The English language is a funny thing that doesn't always make sense. This happens to be one of those times where it doesn't make sense. Especially if you couple this with the fact that another word for "ornament" is "decoration." Because the definition of decoration "something which adorns, enriches or beautifies."
Maybe we should come up with a different word to signify those items with which we festoon our trees at Christmas time. Any ideas? Maybe "life markers." That's what they seem to be, at least in our case. They are the markers of our lives at that particular time and place.
Which makes me smile, laugh even, because my next question was going to be, "How in the world did four (or five) people get so many Christmas ornaments?" I've answered my own questions. Our lives are full to overflowing. We have so many things to mark our lives over the past 16, 19, 20, 21, or 44 years.
Our lives are full. Our lives are good. Our lives are rich. Our lives are beautiful.