Monday, December 5, 2011

The stories of the tree

For as long as I can remember, I have loved Christmas. There was that Christmas when I was thirteen or so, an awkward age, and I lost the magic. But it came back, and I loved Christmas again. Until 2007, when Henry died on the 17th and we buried him on the 22nd and somehow managed to visit with family on the 24th in a blur. 

It wasn't that I hated Christmas after that. I just couldn't do it. Couldn't listen to carols or put up a tree. I stumbled through presents and probably baked cookies, but none shaped like Santa or reindeer or trees. 

I made excuses in the years following: I was tired and pregnant and we'd have a baby two weeks before Christmas; we had a cruiser who would surely just tip the thing over; I was tired and pregnant and we'd have a baby ten days before Christmas. But this was the year, I decided. I'm not pregnant. We have a cruiser who will, given the chance, surely knock the whole thing down. But we also have a little one who is starting to notice and remember and want her to have the magic I had. So, at the bottom of the stairs, behind the makeshift baby gate, we set it up. 

Over the past two days, I decorated. Yesterday it was just the tree and the lights and two ornaments that wound up in the wrong box last year—a cardinal from my aunt and one from Amy, a surprise gift last year. 

Tonight, before Kathleen went to bed, she helped me put a few ornaments on the tree:

This is Henry's heart, and one for Kathleen, and one for Elizabeth. The first year of the Buddy Walk, I used the leftover felt hearts we pinned to our shirts to make ornaments, and then, I made one with Kathleen's name on it too. This year, I added one for Elizabeth. 

People gave these to you your first Christmas, I say of the pink baby carriage and the peas in the pod. 

And then after she went to bed, I added others:
This was from Amy for our wedding. Two become one (and Brian adds, "As often as possible") and this one with the picture of us kissing 

I got this one for a report on Denmark in middle school (a straw star)

Here's the Mount Washington marker ornament. (I wanted Carrigain but they didn't have it.)

Aruba—Did we buy this or did your mom bring it for us? I'm surprised I can't remember how we came to have the little painted glass ball with sand in it, but Brian reminds me we bought it at a little market near the pool.

Oh, Bandit, I sigh at the little dog bone I made of clay and tied up with Christmasy ribbon

And this one's from my fifth grade teacher, I remember as I hang the glass clown with a glass balloon. 

My earliest ornaments, a wooden gingerbread man, a string covered ball with my name and squiggles in glitter, a shiny red ball with my name and birth year, also in glitter

These brass ones are from my friend, Tina, and my friend Erica made this mussel shell angel and hung it around a wine bottle (years and years and years ago).

Cookie party, more cookie party—For years I hosted a cookie party where friends would come over and bring a dough and we'd roll and scoop and bake and decorate. It got a little insane eventually and then fizzled (though we've talked of reinstating it with kids). But from that era, I have gingerbread ornaments and cookies on cookie sheets and rolling pins

Here's the canoe I bought you the year we bought the canoe. And the old wheelbarrow and my watering can.
Here are the snow shoes Amy got us. And the snowshoeing Santa I picked for you one year. 
And your AT ornament.
Brian is trying to read in front of the fire. It used to bother me that he wouldn't help me put up the tree, but this year, I just interrupt him occasionally to point out an ornament and tell him its origins or significance. The rest of the time I tell myself the story of the ornaments, because that is one of my favorite parts of the season. 

In years ahead, I foresee more cardinals and hearts, and I will tell their story too. This is for Henry and I'll tell who made it or where it came from. 

This is the star somebody from Canada made for me the year Elizabeth was born. Nana and Grampy brought the package to me to open in the hospital. 

This is the red bird, this is the heart that somebody sent me from Indiana, the year we had a Christmas tree again. 

Yes, this is my favorite part of decorating—the traditions and the stories and the remembering. 


  1. I love your tree, and I love all your ornaments. I think this is one of the best parts of Christmas, the remembering all the ghosts of Christmases past. Even if they are frightening.

    I'm glad you put up your tree.

    Lots of love to you.

  2. I love your tree and these stories that come with it, and I love that you are telling these stories to your daughters. I hope the tree withstands little hands and adds extra brightness to your house this December.

    Much love to you.

  3. Just beautiful. And sorry I'm so late to this.