I either love it or hate it. I've posted before about the challenges of the Christmas season in my line of work. There are lots of extra songs to sing, a big Christmas Eve service to plan, and tons of extra things to do - from parties and other events to shopping and wrapping and all that - so much busy-ness! It's not just me, I know - it lands on all of us who celebrate this holiday.
This year, I really want to love Christmas, so I'm trying to get ahead. I feel good about our plan for Christmas Eve at PCC, and I've gotten a head start on gifts. And I decided to put the tree up early this year.
The boys went out and got one last weekend, and we put it up, unadorned. When all the kids were home for Thanksgiving, we set aside some time on Friday to decorate it.
There's a certain procedure that ALWAYS has to be followed for Brawley / Stoddard tree decorating:
- Harry Connick's iconic 2003 album Harry For the Holidays - nothing else will do. When the drums kick in and the first notes of "Frosty the Snowman" start blaring in the horn section, we know it's Christmas.
- Everybody pulls their specific ornaments out of the old, duct-taped container and places them somewhere on the tree.
- I go behind them and rearrange the ornaments so things are balanced.
- One of the old gingerbread ornaments that Sharie Rengers helped the kids make bites the dust (Sharie, after 12 years, there's only one left...)
- Somebody breaks a glass bulb.
- There's a huge fight over whose turn it is to put the star on the top.
- We watch Elf.
- Family photo - all the kids, in front of the tree.
- I get emotional.
This year, we added a new item - keep the dog from eating the ornaments.
It was a great evening and I found myself almost amused by how seriously the kids take the tradition and the ornaments. At one point, one of them said, "I just love how our tree has all these old, meaningful, handmade ornaments..." at the same time I was thinking I wish we had a beautiful tree with gorgeous, shiny ornaments instead of all these old preschool macaroni frames and popsicle-stick Rudolphs....
They're right, of course. What matters, and why it matters, is that each ornament represents something. In most cases, each one is specific to a kid. They remember the year everybody got shiny new fancy ornaments; I'd been at Pier One, and I found crowns, and drummers and beautiful, colorful glass and metal balls - one for each kid, picked specially for them. They remember. They say so, and they laugh about it.
|The new guy|
As we finished, I heard one of the girls say, Hey!!! WHAT'S THIS? They pulled at a little stuffed owl / snowman sort of thing.
I got that last year. It's new.
There was no reply; nothing but a look of disdain and the clear implication that "The New Thing" didn't really belong.
But it does. It's part of my memory-making now, one of several ornaments I bought and shared with special friends and loved ones last Christmas. I hope they're placing little owl / snowman things on their trees, among their memorable ornaments, and making their own traditions.
Time goes so fast - it slips and swirls around me in ways I didn't really expect. The tendrils of traditions and memories wrap around my legs every time we revisit one of those things we do every year; Thanksgiving "thankful" around the table at the end of the meal, decorating the tree, celebrating birthdays, singing carols. Every year, I sense the swirl growing higher and higher, building upon all the years that have made this life, this family, this sense of belonging and being part of a blood-connected tribe. I guess, eventually, you get swallowed up by all the memories that make up a life well-lived. And I guess that's not necessarily a bad way to go.
I say, "I love my family" easily, and it's so true. But the depth and breadth of that love is often only fully realized after they've all left to go back to school or their new homes, and I can rest quietly in the darkness and look at the memories that hang on our Christmas tree.
That love is deep, and it is wide, and I have proof.