December 1, we woke to snow. A mere dusting that covered only the pavement and our dirt driveway, the grass was still its early winter mix of slumped green and blah beige. I might no have even bothered to note the snow if not for my girls who crowed, "It snowed!" upon looking out the window. They delighted in putting boots on over their jammies to walk down the driveway to feed our neighbor's cats, leaving smudged footprints behind them.
Out for a late afternoon walk, in the deepening dusk of winter 4 PM, we crested the little hill down the street. "Lights!" my girls cried seeing the reindeer and tree that they had walked by the past couple of weeks lit up for the first time.
I have a little tree that I put up for Henry. We bought it in December 2007 when we thought we might be in the hospital for Christmas. Family members were given little wooden hearts to decorate and send to us. My aunt was horrified hers were already in the mail when Henry died. I put the tree up with those hearts and some cardinals. Until last year, it was the only tree I had. Now, we have the big tree and Henry's tree too. Kathleen, out of the blue, decided she had to make something for Henry's tree, so she cut some strips of paper and wrote "Dear Henry, I love you and stuff, Kathleen" There are many, many of these bits of paper, and I look sometimes and think "What a mess," and other times "What love."
This year I am tackling the project of rehabbing my old dollhouse as a gift for Kathleen. I accept that it will not be perfect or finished really (I got it as a kit 30 some years ago and never put the trim or doors on), but she won't really notice that. Last year, I really wanted to do this for her for Christmas, but I hit my emotional exhaustion wall, and, as I have learned so slowly to do, I let it go. This year, I am finally able to tackle some of the projects that have languished, despite a true desire to do them.
Kathleen and I put up the Christmas tree today. The lower branches are heavily laden and luckily I have a large supply of felt ornaments as opposed to, say, antique glass. I told her the stories of the ornaments—the ones given to her when she was born, the ones I made when I was little, the mountain peak marker and wheelbarrow I gave to Brian, the hearts I made for each of them. And tucked in among those are little red birds ones I've bought each year on the day after Thanksgiving, a paper collage from Amy, a simple stuffed cloth bird from the ornament swap last year, a felted ball from Jenni, a painted glass ball from my aunt. And after Kathleen went to bed, I remembered to open the package that came in the mail (a bit of light and excitement any time) and found my new swap ornament, a cookie cutter with Henry's name on heart with a feather from a desert cardinal hanging. He has his own tree, but he's here with us too.