Memories…memories…and more memories…"Remembrance , like a candle burns brightest at Christmas time."
The kids were all here to help decorate the tree…and it is not just a task that must be done. No far from it. It is a sweet, nostalgic journey through my history, my children’s history and it becomes in effect, story time.
Tim, son-in-law to be, was part of the tree trimming this year…and being so new to the family, he does not already know all of the stories. So they are told with such relish…and perhaps exaggerated a ‘tiny’ bit.
We sort through the ornaments after DdotCdot has put all of the lights on, and <blush> no, there was not a problem with that set of lights…remember? Even though they did not light when they were plugged into THAT outlet??? Why must we forget ,every year, that a light swith on the wall controls power to THAT outlet. Hmm, just a swith and an outlet that we never use I guess…
The tree is a concolor…and it cost way too much, but it does smell of tangerines… so every tiny pinch pf pine needles gives way to a heady fragrance of oranges and recollections of other Christmases. The needles are soft; I have long since ceased to give into the urge for spruce trees. Nothin’ pretty about trimming a tree while wearing leather gloves.
The ornaments come out of the boxes, one by one and I watch as they grace tender branches with colors and shapes… and I note how areas on the tree are framed by groupings of them. I smile inwardly while I listen to Zigzee and Tim discuss and agree that it is okay to have groupings of similar mexican clay ornaments.
Grandma Painter’s ornament, my inheritance from her via my mother, takes a high place on the tree. My daughter just knows.
It is not a beautiful ornament by any aesthetic measure; in fact, the old blue paint is rubbed off and chipped in places…but the train that wraps around its sides is still clearly discernable as such. It is mine because of my affinity for trains… a collection that started as a passion for tiny trains (under 2 inches) made out of bizarre materials, but evolved as most things do, into a collection of things that other people just knew that I wanted and needed. Evidence the ‘L’ gauge train that is in a box…still…17 years later. Oh my, how things get out of hand…
So the train ornament always takes a place of honor (and out of harm’s way) high upon the branches of the tree.
The ornaments go on, quickly at times. Zigzee and I discuss just which sheep ornament is the ‘old goat’. We determine that one is, indeed, the ornament that she proudly told her grandpap (23 years ago) was him because he "Was an old goat" and I laugh at the words as she speaks them…
Ah yes, this ritual has been repeated oft enough that she knows the stories…and they have become part of her history…part of her Christmas ritual.
And the other sheep? Well of course, it was Abe’s… Abe Keck…and Zigzee adds "He was such a nice guy…it is really neat how he made a different ornament every year to give to all of his friends."
I smile and nod…and know that she can’t imagine how inside I cry…remembering… my dad…my grandma..old Abe Keck…yes they were real treasures, And I begin to formulate the thought,, that this is the essence of the tree …for me. It is memories and reminders of people who should NEVER be forgotten; people who have touched our lives in such loving and wonderful ways…and we give them these few moments unselfishly…far less than they deserve.
I place the dixie cup bells (covered with aluminum foil) on the branches…and smile as I realize that I have done them as a paired ‘grouping’, lol… but inside a sob threatens to surface for all to see. I recall tiny hands and proud faces as the bells were presented to me, years ago.
Next I find the ‘sugar’ scoops that were made in high school metal shop class. And Zigzee reminds me again that i originally had it all wrong, "You know mom, I DID make the sugar scoop. I liked metal shop; it was sewing class that i didn’t like. It was the green apron that I paid someone, with my lunch money, to make for me."
And I smile at her sheepishly now…imagining that i had ever gotten THAT one wrong. I can hardly wait to tell her children…as we hang that ornament on Grandma’s tree!
I hang the sparkly drummer boy made of metal, on a lower branch. It could take the fall if it was bumped off by one of the dogs, or a hasty passerby. I see glitter as I look at it, but it is the glitter in Natters eye’s that appears to me. A little two year old nightingale…singing "Wumpapumpum" I actually giggle a little as I recall his sincere efforts to hit the hight notes… He was indeed, my little drummer boy…
Follows next is a dated rocking horse…baby’s first Christmas 1986. I am astounded…pained and humbled…where on earth did 20 years go?
Now Tim asks if we have a pickle ornament and a spider to put on the tree?
I am caught without either.
So he tells me that the pickle is for good luck. (I will search for one for next year’s tree) But if the truth be known…I am already lucky…"We don’t need no stinking pickle!" Awe, just a little funny there; who would turn away good luck?
The spider story, he tells me, is one about a tree that was beautifully decorated, but a spider wanted to add to it. So he crawled on the tree and spun his web all over it. When Santa, or God, two versions, saw the web, to spare the feeling of the spider, who had the best of intentions, turned the dull gray web into shiny silver…and that is the story of how tinsel came to be put on trees.
Next, I place the angel stretched out over a bubble on a high branch…twin to one that i bought for my mom at a high end Christmas shop…but this one, I found at a flea market for a quarter… and I think that it shines a little nicer for that.
And there are the handmade beaded and quilted and tasseled ornaments, victorian in appearance…yet they blend in with this ecclectic assortment of love, sweetness, history old and new.
Yes…they came from the flea market too, and they are classy, but THAT is not the reason that they hang on my tree. I can still see the man’s face as he told me his story (Yes, i have a weakness everywhere I go; I believe that everyone has a story…and most long to tell it…so…I tend to listen to it)
As I hang the ornaments I can hear his voice tinged with wistful longing, for a life that is anything other than the one that has wended its way to his front door. His wife had developed severe dementia…and she was far more than he could care for alone. So they had entered into an agreement with a retirement home. It was one that could give her the care that she needed but still alllowed him to stay near to her. But he had to sell their home to pay for the room and the care.
He touched each ornament as he handed them to me, in such a way that i knew his mind saw her hands placing them on the tree…and perhaps her smile passed his way while the ornament was hung…
And in that moment, his memories became mine, part of his history became permanently intertwined with my history…and the sweetness and the sadness of their life was marked upon my heart. And I know that that mark will remain for as long as my mind is able to recall those moments that we shared at that flea market, reminiscing the beauty of those ornaments.
Empathy? Jeez, I am the queen of Empathy, it is my kingdom…
A handmade snowflake from my friend Karen. A handmade pressed glass ornament with a head of queen Anne’s lace pressed between the glass and edged in copper…Lora, Brel’s mom presented as a gift. A lace angel and a lace bell made by a dear older friend, Dot, as a thank-you gift for the invite to a gingerbread party.
Tim hangs the manatee ornament that he gave us last year, as a thank-you for including him in our trip to Crystal River to snorkle with the manatees. He is such a thoughtful young man… my daughter has chosen wisely 🙂
The plastic Barqs bottle amputation is hung, up high, by Nathan. He was, after all, the artist involved with the creation. Remove bottom of bottle, top of bottle, and drill a small hole in the side near top edge, insert bread tie for hanging loop and voila! (I included instructions just in case pure envy or admiration had anyone burning to create one of their own)
Amanda (Nate’s wife) decides that he must have done it when they were 16, because she can recall him doing it…and their lives have been sung as a duet since they were the tender age of 16. They are 25 now.
DdotCdot places the star on top of the tree, and is informed immedialtley by almost all present that the top needs to be pruned back a bit. I reach into the old vanity drawer (garage sale find 25 years ago, 5 bucks) and retrieve my small pruners and it takes him 3 tries. Better to take it a little at a time, he says, because it is really tough to add it back on.
We add tinsel, amidst whining… (it has become a task to others by now) and I insist on NO clumping it on! And that is the next discussion… about the etiquette involved with ‘blobbing’ on tinsel…to blob or not to blob? We reach an impasse. I refuse to concede; my views will stand, albeit disputed by my children. 🙂
And the candy canes now…and can you beleive that Tim has NEVER tasted buttered popcorn flavored jelly bellies???? So he gets a buttered popcorn flavored candy cane. I do my part to quell ignorance in this world!
Now all that is left to do is to take pictures…because this tree is THE most beautiful one ever…ever…really…until after I take my walk down memory lane next Christmas…
Note* new photo album has pictures of <smirk> THE most beautiful tree…ever…