Today I decorated our Christmas tree. It’s a task that I now do alone. My husband isn’t much into Christmas. In fact, I think he’s the Grinch incarnate. 🙂 But that’s ok.
As a kid, Christmas tree decorating used to be a special thing my Mum, brother and I did. We’d all go pick out a tree, usually sold at our church. I think in later childhood years it was one of the few times we actually graced the steps of our church – to buy a Christmas tree. My Dad would get the tree into its stand and curse for 20 minutes as he fought to put the lights on. Inevitably, one light would be ‘out’ and of course, back then, it meant the whole string of lights was toast. So he’d find the one burnt out bulb, replace it, and get the lights in place. Then my Mum, brother and I would decorate the tree. Back then, we put tinsel on our tree. My Mum would pretend to scold my brother and I for throwing the tinsel on the tree instead of placing it on neatly. Actually, what we’d do is ‘blow; it on – throw it in the air and as it gently drifted toward the tree, we’d purse our lips and gently blow to direct the tinsel to its desired location. Leave it to kids, eh? Drove my Mum nuts.
For the 150 years I was in university, I always went home for Christmas. By that point, Mum and Dad had switched to an artificial tree. Not my cup of tea – I like real trees. But it still worked for us because the best part of the Christmas tree was the decorating. By that time, my brother had his own family and so my Mum and I would be the ones to decorate the tree. No more cursing the tree lights for my Dad – he put the lights on the artificial tree once and there they stayed; the tree would sit in the basement the rest of the year, lights and all, with a sheet over it. Time to decorate? Bring the tree upstairs, pull off the sheet and ta-da! Ready for decorations. No more cursing.
As my Mum aged and her mobility declined, tree decorating consisted of her sitting in her lift chair, Santa hat on, glass of Bailey’s or ‘fortified’ eggnog in her hand, ‘instructing’ me as to what went where. There were certain ornaments that I absolutely loved and others that were not my favourite. I think the words “butt ugly” were mentioned by me a few times… 🙂
I’d try to hide the ugly ones at the back of the tree, but Mum would say, “Tut, tut!” and wave her finger at me. And so I had to move the ugly ornaments to somewhere on the front of the tree. She was truly the orchestra conductor during our tree decorating. We’d laugh and joke. Id’ try to slip the ugly ornaments to the back of the tree again. Mum would tut, tut again and wave her finger. Christmas tree decorating was our thing – a very special time that my Mum and I spent together. Many happy times were had and many happy memories made.
My Mum passed away just over three years ago. She was not just my super-Mum, but also my best friend and soul mate. I have yet to find the words to describe our relationship. The closest we ever came to putting it in words was describing ourselves as “two peas in a pod”. For the past three years, the pod has felt really empty.
I now have my own Christmas tree. I’m all grown up, have a house of my own and my own tree. I should say “our tree” to indicate it’s for me and my husband. But like I said, he’s not much of a Christmas kind of guy…. So, I decorate solo. The first Christmas without my Mum, I hated it. I did nothing but sob as I put decorations on the tree. My Mum had passed away in early November so my emotions were still pretty raw. Decorating the tree that year was beyond difficult. But I’m ok with it now because for me, tree decorating has become a wonderfully nostalgic time. It brings back some of my earliest childhood memories. Growing up in our household, Christmas was always absolutely magical. Really and truly magical. If there was a way I could recreate the feelings I had at those times, I would.
Christmas doesn’t feel so magical anymore. I think those feelings are something only a child can experience. I still love Christmas. But there are things missing. So instead I decorate the tree and remember. And today, I decorated our tree. Alone. But it was good because I spent the time remembering.
As I recalled so many wonderful memories, it dawned on me that our Christmas tree is actually a “history tree” because of the decorations on it. More than half of them are the decorations from my childhood. After my Mum passed away, my Dad stopped having a Christmas tree and so he gave me all of the family decorations – the ones that we had been putting on our Christmas tree since I was old enough to remember. And so today, as I decorated our tree, I thought of the “anatomy” of our tree – decorations from early childhood, some from young adulthood, and others more contemporary. Regardless of its vintage, every decoration on our tree has meaning for me.
What follows is an overview of that inventory. For you, this might be boring. But I decided to write this post for me, as a catalogue of some of my memories of Christmas. Christmas is still a beautiful time of year for me. But I’ve realized that much of Christmas now is captured in my memories of it – memories of Christmas past rather than elements of Christmas present. But I’m ok with that. I don’t think I’m living in the past. I think I’m celebrating the past and gaining joy in the present, out of a lifetime of wonderful memories. And we still buy or receive new ornaments to mark special events in our lives now.
I took these photos with my iPhone. They aren’t works of art. Instead, I have focused on trying to translate memories into images. At the very least, I hope that these make you recall your own fond memories of Christmas and the fun you have decorating your tree.
This is just a snapshot of the many ornaments on our tree. It covers nearly 50 years of history in our family. Lots of fond memories and lots of laughs. And reminders of significant events in my life too. I wonder what new ones we’ll add this year and in the years to come?
Merry Christmas! I hope you have a fantastic holiday and I hope you enjoy decorating your tree.