Holidays! (Insert several emoticons from smiling to crying). I have so many fond memories from my childhood, teen and young adult years. However, with the passing of beloved family members, as you may have experienced, Christmas can become a bittersweet holiday.
My mother loved to decorate a Christmas tree! Looking back, I realize the real excitement was anticipating the whole family being together. Mom’s three kids would all be under one roof again — my sister Beth, my brother Lee, and me. The last time we all lived together Beth was 18, Lee was 16 and I was 6. That’s when my parents divorced and Beth went off to Indiana University, Lee stayed with my father in St. Louis and my mother and I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to be near her mom and her new job. So, it was a special occasion to have all three of her, now grown (or almost grown), children under one roof! I was always tickled pink to have both of my siblings with me!
So, while Mom and I decorated the tree each year, we simultaneously looked back recalling our fond memory and looked forward, anticipating the arrival of family. We would pull out and inspect all the old ornaments, sparkly baubles from my Nana (I recall my childhood days, going through her costume jewelry to make one),
hand-painted (outside the lines) ornaments that Beth and I created when I was a kid, newer ornaments with family names on them, and my personal favorite, tiny elves made of pipe cleaners and felt.
For many years (after my mother died in 1987), it was terribly difficult for me to decorate the tree. I would miss her presence and excitement, sipping white wine, playing Christmas tunes and singing, going through all the ornaments and talking about what delicious meal she was preparing for Christmas Eve Dinner. As is often the case after the matriarch dies, the entire family didn’t get together quite so much and there was no big Christmas Eve dinner and celebration. My brother, newly married, and my sister, married with two little ones, had dinner with their respective families. I had to make my own tradition. Find my own Christmas spirit, without my beloved mom and siblings.
In 1998 things changed. Having a daughter of my own truly helped. Nothing like the excitement of a little girl running into the room to see what Santa brought. When she was two she ran into the room and asked, “Where’s Santa?” She stared out the front door to look for him. She was certain that when we said Santa was coming, we meant he’d be there in the morning to watch her open her presents. Kids are very literal! It was heart wrenching and funny, her little face pressed up again the window, repeating, “Where’s Santa?” Bless her heart!
She is now a teenager and not quite into the decorating so much. So this year I needed to start a new tradition. After attending a friend’s trim-a-tree party I decided to invite close friends over to help me trim my tree. It was a GREAT time. The bonus was one of my friends brought a little six-year-old, and she kept the holiday spirit quite alive.
We decorated cookies. Greg who works for NASA made ornaments inspired by the planets and Star Trek, Turi brought a delicious tofu egg salad, Karen made the most delicious pumpkin bread, and Kim came early to help me set up and then topped it off with a yummy sweet potato recipe. Showing them my old ornaments and sharing my memories made it all special again. And having help untangle the lights was a huge bonus!
I realize that although time passes and traditions change, the spirit of the holiday expresses itself in many ways. From singing with my mom, to untangling lights with friends, to watching a little girl find many, many ways to decorate a cookie, it’s all part of the tradition of the holidays.
Even though she wasn’t with me in person, I could feel my mother’s spirit. I feel she is happy and smiling, telling me she could decorate as many Christmas Trees as she wants now. And, my loving, funny brother, who I miss just as much, is there with her.
I miss them dearly, but have so many fond memories of their spirit. Especially at this time of year. ‘Tis the Season, to remember. Especially our loved ones who have passed. And create new traditions and celebrations that allow you to feel and share the spirit of the season. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!