There are two things I can guarantee about Thanksgiving weekend, one was the Mexican restaurant visit I told you about yesterday and the other is that Christmas throws up at our house on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. With turkey day being so early this year the Christmas stuff will be up almost a whole extra week.
I love Christmas and especially decorating for Christmas. It started when I was a kid and my mother always got a tree that went to the ceiling of our barn big living room. It was so tall that it had to be wired to the rafters. I look back at pictures of my childhood trees and think it is a huge mess with its giant colored lights, gold garland rope the large clumps of Styrofoam ornaments not more than four feet from the ground that my mother let us put on.
When I was in boarding school I was a Christmas cadet. That meant I was one of five girls who dressed in red and green elf-like clothes and would stand up at dinner and announce various holiday related information. I was often wrapped in lights and my math teacher Ruth Elmore always let me plug in and blink during class. I also was the countdown cadet. I had index cards numbered from 100 to 0 on a ribbon and every hour I would flip a card and at a glance let anyone who was interested know exactly how many hours we had until we were able to go home for Christmas break. I don’t remember a lot of studying for exams, but I do remember the hour cards.
In college I got a tree for my off campus house and began collecting ornaments, many of which I still have. Christmas ornaments are my souvenirs of choice whenever I go on a trip. It is so fun to talk about all the places we have been while we decorate the tree. Consequently I have to have a very large tree to hold so many memories.
We built a special place in our house just for the tree. Up until the time Carter was about 8 we had a live 14-foot tree. That last live tree year as we were decorating it we got a call from a good friend of Russ’ from business school, Sylvia. She had been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer at the age of 39. It was devastating to us. A few hours later after the tree was all decorated it fell over and many of my most beloved ornament we destroyed. I stood looking at the tree on its side with all the lights hanging off and the shards of broken colored glass strewn across the floor and burst into tears. Carter had a special ornament that had been signed by Christopher Radko, the maker, especially to her that had been broken. She came up and saw it and put her little hand on my shoulder as I cried and I was sure was going to be upset. Instead and said, “Mommy, at least we are not sick like Daddy’s friend.” Talk about putting it all in perspective.
The next year we got a 14-foot fake tree and have never looked back. Every year as I put the tree up I think about Sylvia who we lost that year. The ornaments lost in the fall have been replaced by new ones, this year by the many ones I needle pointed as a new Christmas obsession, but the friends and family who have passed away can never be replaced, just remembered.
I hope that whatever your tradition, you take some time to think about those you love and those you miss. If you come to my house, and you are welcome to visit anytime, don’t think about how much Christmas has thrown up all over my house, but instead about how many memories all those decorations represent.