It’s also very nostalgic. This time, I was struck by these ornaments in particular.
These ornaments double as candy cane holders, so that they look like hobby horses when they hang on the tree. The red one was made over fifty years ago by my spouse B when he was in elementary school. The white one was made about thirty years ago by B’s mom, when she was teaching in elementary school and would lead her students in creating a holiday gift for their parents. She would always make extras to give to family members. I’m sure hers were prettier than her students, although all are equally treasured.
These and all the other ornaments are safely stowed now, waiting for next Christmas – or maybe the one after that, if we decide to spend the holidays in London this year.
A few hours after I wrote this post, B, T, and I were watching television when there was a horrible crash behind us. Our newly decorated tree had tipped over! Apparently, the bolts that hold it in the stand weren’t tightened quite enough.
We all sprang into action! B pulled the tree off the floor, T ran to get towels for the water, I pulled back the carpet so it would’t get soaked, T and I got towels down on the wood floor, and T and I held the tree in position so B could secure the bolts.
We got water back in the stand and re-positioned the ornaments and lights which had dislodged. We were fortunate that we only lost three small glass ornaments, none of them heirlooms. There was quite a lot of sweeping up to do, with needles and broken glass strewn about the floor.
Now, the tree looks almost like this again! (Besides the three that broke, a few others are in different places now.)
Yesterday, B and I went to the tree farm to buy our Christmas tree and wreath. Today, along with daughter T, we decorated the tree.
I love our Christmas ornament collection. There are ornaments that belonged to our parents. Ones we have bought on our travels over the years. Ones we received as gifts. Home-made ones by my grandmother, B’s mom, B as a child, our children. Handcrafted ones made by artists on four continents, including my friend Yvonne Lucia. Ornaments made of cloth, yarn, wood, birch bark, wax, corn husks, glass, paper, teasels, metal, ceramic, plastic, even eggshell. The angel on top of the tree is one I made from a kit with the help of a friend shortly after B and I married. The latch-hooked tree skirt featuring candy canes was made by my mother.
If our home suffered a disaster and our ornament collection was lost, it would be impossible to re-create.
Still, during the years when I was caring for my parents and in the immediate aftermath of their passing, as much as I cherish these ornaments, I couldn’t being myself to unwrap them, touch them, place them on the tree. Even when others had done so, I could only manage a few glances at them.
Dealing with grief and loss is an individual and unpredictable endeavor. Last Christmas, our first since the death of my father, known here as Paco, we traveled to visit daughter E and her family in London, so we didn’t have our usual Christmas decorations. I really wasn’t sure how much of the usual Christmas routine I would be able to resume this year, so I am grateful that I felt up to participating in some decorating.
Granted, Christmas this year will be quieter than usual. It will be just B, T, and I celebrating at home. I will be going to church on my own. There will be stockings and some presents to open. (I admit my Christmas enthusiasm has not yet extended to shopping.) We will have a nice dinner and dessert although we haven’t settled on the menu yet. We have decided not to make our usual number of cookies, most years dozens of cookies in at least a half dozen varieties. It just doesn’t make sense for three people.
I think one of the factors in my feeling some Christmas spirit this year was singing Lessons and Carols with the Madrigal Choir of Binghamton last weekend. Given that I spent so many years doing liturgy planning and music in Catholic churches, I’m not accustomed to singing Christmas music publicly during Advent, but I think this year doing so boosted my anticipation for Christmas and helped me to feel up to helping with decorating.
If I’m lucky, it will carry me through finishing the cards next week.
If not, I will try to remember to take the advice that I offer to others who are dealing with loss: Be gentle with yourself.
Maybe the fragrance of the Canaan fir, the rainbow-hued lights, the meaningful ornaments will help lift my spirit if it flags.
Christmas trees are beautiful, even through misty eyes.
Today, we observe Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the magi. It’s also a family tradition to take down our Christmas tree today. Often, B does most of that work, although I think T and I will help today. It’s always a bit sad to take down the tree, although this is longest time we have ever had a tree up as we got it early in order to have it to celebrate St. Nicholas Day in advance of E and ABC’s holiday trip to London. I was afraid the tree would not last all these weeks, but it has held up well, only shedding a few needles. LEDs help to keep the needles from drying out, as they sometimes did with the old incandescent light strings.
Our tree this year wound up being decorated with mostly non-breakable ornaments. There are a few fragile ones in the top third, safely out of ABC’s reach. She was very interested in the ornaments as they were put up, carrying them around and sometimes taking them back off the tree, but once it was all decorated, she (mostly) left them up.
We decorated our Christmas tree today. While many people put their trees up right after Thanksgiving here in the United States, we usually wait until closer to Christmas and keep it up until Epiphany. This year, knowing that daughter E and granddaughter ABC will be heading to the UK mid-month for the holidays, we decided to decorate early in order to observe St. Nicholas Day on December sixth for exchanging gifts and opening stockings.
At almost eighteen months, we weren’t sure how ABC would react to tree trimming. We went through our considerable cache of ornaments and chose all the indestructible and child-safe ones for the bottom half of the tree. ABC was delighted with all the rocking horses, bells, animals, musical instruments, angels, etc. and ran back and forth with them. She wanted them on the tree and then wanted them back off to play with them, but, eventually, we got the whole tree decorated. We are sure there will be lots of opportunities to re-hang ornaments after she decides to play with them again!
I love our Christmas ornament collection, which includes ones that came to us from our families, handmade ones, and many that we have collected while travelling. One special one that we added this year is a handmade downy woodpecker, which we bought to commemorate the one that our daughters tried to rescue.
The woodpecker’s new bear friend is one that we have had for decades.
And two of ABC’s words are “bear” and “bird”, even if they do sound a lot alike when she says them.
I admit that, with so much going on this past year, I am having trouble feeling in the Christmas spirit, but ABC’s delighted squeals with each new ornament certainly helped.
Over the weekend, B and T undecorated the Christmas tree. We usually do this on Epiphany, but that was when L was flying out to return to London, so it got pushed back this year. Because B and E had cut the tree down themselves in mid-December, it was still in good shape so the extra week in the house didn’t matter.
I admit that I continued my largely hands-off policy with the tree. I didn’t really even look at it that much, other than when I would bring ABC close to it because she enjoyed the lights and grabbing at a few strategically placed safe ornaments. I especially liked that she played with – and could chew on – a red plastic-canvas-and-yarn ornament that was part of a set I had made before ABC’s mom E was born. E and T both played with those ornaments when they were young and I appreciated seeing our first grandbaby doing the same.
The other thing that was comforting about the tree this year was the scent. Even though I didn’t much care to look at the tree and often sat with my back to it, I loved the scent of our Canaan fir. I miss it now that it is gone.
This morning, a truck from the town came by and collected the tree from the curb. It and the other Christmas trees will become mulch for use in the town parks. Having served its purpose at our home, I’m glad that it has been returned to the natural world.
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/15/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-15th-2018/