Our First Christmas Tree

So this will be our first Christmas in the new house. We’re furiously working to get the upstairs completed (completed being relative to all the other things that need to get done) in time for the holidays. Saturday we purchased a lovely Fraser fir from a vendor at St. Mark’s, but had to hold off until Sunday to decorate because we were in a groove working upstairs and did not want to lose momentum.

Sunday came and with it continued the flurry of work upstairs, but I knew the tree had to come inside and get decked for the season. Decorating the tree is work — fun — but its still work. There’s the untangling of the lights you failed to properly put away last year, there’s getting pine sap all over your hands and then there’s getting all the ornaments out in one piece.

I was set for the ritual, or so I thought. Tim carried the tree in from the front porch where it had been hydrating for 24 hours, together we added 3 strings of white lights. And then he went back to working upstairs, leaving me alone with the ornaments.

O.K., I’m about to go off on a slight tangent here, but will tie it all back in shortly: I’m a big believer in purging items that you no longer use, that no longer work or that you no longer like. In recent years, I haven’t lived anyplace that could hold a good accumulation of “stuff” so as a habit, I purge what I don’t need/want/like. However, there are some things you just don’t part with and for me, that would be family ornaments. (See I told you I would tie it back to the story)

I opened the first container of ornaments — it was stuff I had bought when I first moved to Maryland, as well as some stuff from Florida. Nothing really special there. It was the second container that held the surprise. This box contained the last intact remains of my mother’s Christmas ornaments. Glass ornaments from the 1960’s in hot pink (go-go pink?) metallic blue and silver and gold. Nothing so incredibly fancy or beautiful – but it was the memories that held the surprise. I was unprepared for the flood of memories that were unfolding in my brain.

Seeing those ornaments brought back happy memories of both my departed parents. Remembering when it was all I could do as a little kid to keep a tight lid on my excitement over Christmas and all the season held. It started with putting up and decorating the tree, the decorations surged throughout the house and culminated with my mom, grandma and me baking holiday cookies we would share with family and friends. If ever there were a holiday built around family, surely Christmas is it. And then there were the years when mom could no longer help with the tree and it was up to me to keep up the tradition for my parents. All that came rushing back with a force that brought me to my knees and tears streamed down my cheeks. My heart ached from missing my mother and father – this was most definitely not the reaction I expected from decorating the blasted tree. Tim, being the wise and sensitive sort from all the way upstairs, knew something wasn’t quite right (must’ve been the strangled whimpers I fought to keep quiet) and came down to find me drowning in my memories (and tears).

Once the tears subsided, we took the ornaments I just purchased – a crab for him (he’s a cancer) and an alligator for me (symbolic of Florida) each with articulating body segments and placed them on the tree – starting our own Christmas tree decorating tradition and memories in this new house. I’m now able to step back and remember my very happy (and some sad) memories of Christmases past. I’d like to think both my parents and grandparents are somehow sharing in the holiday and are happy at the turn of events in my life.