Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I came home from Thanksgiving a bit reluctantly a day earlier than usual, which turned out to be a wonderful decision. I spent the weekend cleaning: clearing debris—scraps of paper, twisted pipe cleaners, bits of cloth, small sticks and pebbles—and tidying the art table in the playroom so you could actually do a project or find materials there. I dusted and vacuumed. I packed away sweat shirts and organized snow clothes. And I sorted through the boxes and piles that have covered and surrounded my dining room table since August when I gave up my office and transformed it into a playroom. I have no regrets about that change. The room gets much better use as a playroom, but the residual chaos has been driving me crazy. Some how, going into December with a clearer space (the table isn't quite empty, but it's getting there) makes a difference. I feel lighter walking through the house. There's something to that who clear space, clear mind thing.

Kathleen could barely wait to put up the tree. "Can we do it now?" "Let's put up the tree!" "You said we'd start during Lizzy's nap." We put together our artificial tree together. She watched me untangle the lights and wrap them around and around and around. She handed me the red and green wooden bead garland. Around and around and around again. Then we waited some more for Lizzy to wake up.

Here's the red bird paper ornament from Amy and the felt heart I made with one of our Buddy Walk hearts and the matching hearts for both my girls. Here's the red bird Jenni felted for me and the beaded star that arrived while I was in the hospital with Elizabeth, and the one from the ornament swap with the "desert cardinal" feather. Here's the felt cardinal we had on the tree when I was little that I loved just for itself that means something else now. Here's sand from my home town and the painted ornament Brian and I bought in Aruba. Here's the canoe I bought for Brian the year we bought the canoe and snowshoes and a cross country skiing Santa (remember when we did those things?) Our tree is too full. We have a small tree, so perhaps a full size tree is order, or maybe I simply need to weed out the ornaments that don't have a story.

The decorating is done, though Kathleen keeps asking if there are more Christmas decorations, more holiday toys. But we're done. There are red birds throughout the house. Snowflakes, the ones my aunt gave me one of those first awful winters, glint in the sunlight. I light my candle and Henry's tree. I sit by the fire and look into the empty space in the dining room. I look at the space I cleared and breathe into it.

December, three days in, still wary, but stronger.


  1. We're doing our decorating this weekend. Today is the last day of classes before finals, so N is feeling more able to live life outside his office, and I am longing for a tree. Christmas ornament stories make me happy (and sad and thoughtful, but in a good sort of way), and I loved reading some of yours. I am thinking of you and your house full of red birds and sending love.

  2. Enjoy your decorating!
    We have a small, real tree that somebody gave us the year Henry died. I never planted it, but it's doing okay in it's pot outside. Usually I put cardinals on it, but this year, Kathleen and I strung cranberries to add that splash of red I need. And thank you for being here with me, particularly this month.