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Repost: Christmas Traditions

December 24, 2010

One of my personal favorites.

May you all have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

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We Christmas multi-tasked last night. We took in Freddy’s choir concert, which was pure joy… with a teeny bit of hell mixed in. Picture 150 3rd, 4th and 5th graders singing White Christmas at the top of their lungs, their angelic faces a mixture of boredom, rapture, yawning, intensity, laughing, and talking. They were amazing. I had a tear in my eye as I video taped the occasion for posterity.

The event was held in the school’s too-small auditorium and we family members were about 600 strong, packed in like sardines, all there to support our little darlings–all of us included several very grouchy 2 and 3-year olds that threatened to drown out the Christmas cheer entirely. And although the temperatures outside were hovering in the teens, it felt like summer inside. I desperately wanted to strip off my down coat and my heavy sweater just so I wouldn’t sweat into the camera lens, but my allotted space was only about 1 1/2 square feet, so there was nowhere to put the coat or the sweater. There was barely room to hold the video camera over my head so I could capture each song, and my arm felt like jello by the time it was all said and done.

But we clapped enthusiastically, oohed and aahed at all of their hard work, thanked the music director (who is an angel herself, I must say), got the video we needed, and took some pictures.

Then we left the concert to come home and decorate our tree.

I am a plastic tree kind of person. I’m really not into cleaning up the needles, keeping the darn thing watered (have I mentioned before that I’m the Black Thumb of the family), hauling it down to the street after Christmas, perching on a ladder trying to string lights just right, or worrying about fire danger. Like everything else in my life, I like the tree to fit nicely into its box and go, organized with all other Christmas paraphernalia, into the basement by mid-January.

And I really like that I don’t have to wander around a Christmas Tree Farm (although I think the naming convention of the Hatfields on one side of town and McCoys on the other is inspired) freezing my hiney and other assorted parts off, looking for the perfect tree.

My Hubby, on the other hand, is a live-tree guy to the end. He’s all about the smell of freshly cut pine and dripping sap, wandering around the Christmas Tree Farm picking the perfect tree, concocting the boiling water and sugar mixture that feeds it, and keeping it alive as long as possible. He would trek to the mountains to find the perfect tree to chop down if he could.

We compromised this year. We chose a live tree, but we’ll buy the plastic version on after-Christmas discount and alternate my pre-lit fake for his live every other year.

Because of this ongoing debate, it took us longer this year to actually get a tree. We brought it home Wednesday night and decorated it last night, after the choir concert was over.

My Hubby has fond memories of decorating with family, Christmas carols playing in the background, lights twinkling on the tree. I have the same fond memories, centered around reminiscing–checking out each ornament and remembering something about the time and place. This year was no different for us.

Listening to the soft strains of Silent Night and the giggles of our children, we dug out all of the ornaments and delighted in the love that had gone into each one. We don’t have a lot of ornaments that are store bought. We have a few that give the tree a little bit of synchronicity, but most are ornaments that were handmade.

I love to look at every one of them, the year written neatly on the back by teachers or daycare folks, the front decorated with macaroni, glitter glue, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and construction paper. Each of our children has some special talent in the art department and we have an excellent collection of carefully constructed Santas, glittering pinecones, framed pictures, bead ornaments, dough cut-outs and lists of things we’ve been thankful for over the years.

Just as I got a tear listening to the elementary school choir sing White Christmas, I got a little misty-eyed looking at each ornament and thinking about where each child was when he or she made these memories. I lovingly traced the outline of the stocking that’s a little more wilted this year but has some amazing construction paper patchwork–that one was made by Velma in the first grade. I glued back on the pom-poms that had fallen off of the craft-foam wreath encircling a picture of Daphne in kindergarten. I fixed the bric-a-brac hanger on the measuring cup with a circular (read: sort of oblong, but good effort) cut out of Shaggy pasted in the bottom. And we all recalled the year that Freddy went to a pottery-making event and made an ornament for each member of the family.

Each one of them remembers with such clarity…

“I was in 1st grade when I made this one…”

“Yeah, that was the year I made you a car…”

“I love this one, it’s my favorite out of all the ones I’ve made…”

“Look, I was missing a tooth in this one!”

They dug through the boxes to find their personal ornaments, reminded us of the circumstances surrounding their creation, attached hangers, and found just the right spot to place each one on the tree. We all marveled at how beautiful the tree was when we were finished. Not Martha Stewart, for sure, but our very own work of art filled with love.

The years have gone by so fast. They’re all so grown-up these days. I’m not sure popsicle-stick Santas or glitter-glue pinecones would keep their interest now. But I’m glad that they have made these memories. I’m even more glad that we get them out every year, remember the effort and emotion that went into each one, and hang them up for us all to enjoy.

As I looked at an Angel card/ornament that my grandparents gave to me, slid a hanger through the fraying string, and read the words my Grammy wrote to me almost 35 years ago, I was grateful for this tradition.

I was grateful for the snow falling gently outside the window, for the warmth of the fire crackling in the fireplace, for the smiles of each one of our healthy children, for the family members we are blessed with, for the time we spent sifting through our memories from years gone by, and especially for the new memories we’ll make this next year.

Long after the kids had gone to bed, My Hubby and I sat on the couch, the rest of the house dark and quiet, in the glow of the twinkling lights. We didn’t speak, just sat and enjoyed each other’s company.

These moments? These are what it’s all about.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    December 24, 2010 7:37 am

    Our tree is a hodge podge of ornaments that the kids have made or been given thru the years too. I love remembering as I hang those ornaments.

  2. Robyn permalink
    December 24, 2010 6:32 pm

    nice post! As I put up our tree, I got out the ornament I bought with you in La Jolla… 😉

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