In life there are many firsts. Some of them good, some of them bad, some fall smack dab in the middle. This first is bittersweet. It is the first Christmas without my Mom. Which means many other firsts too – the first Christmas tree without her, the first gift wrapping without her, the first year of my life that I will not be buying Christmas gifts for her. You never realize just how many gifts that a person would enjoy until you lose them….and you still see gifts around the holidays that they would love. But somewhere along the way, you have to find more sweet than bitter if you are going to survive the holiday season.
This past weekend was time for another first. We went to pick it out, and Dad searched and found just the right tone. I admit, I have never had a real one. Growing up we always had an artificial Christmas tree. This dates back to, what I have been told, the first Christmas that Mom and Dad were married. They got a real tree, and loved it. And then the holidays were over, and it was time to take the ornaments off and put the tree, well, whereever real trees go after Christmas.
This is where there was an impasse. Dad firmly believed that it was the woman’s job to handle the Christmas decorations, including the disposal of the tree. Mom felt that it was the man’s job to carry the large Christmas tree out the curb. Both my parents are very stubborn. Neither one was willing to budge. And so there the Christmas tree sat, needles brown and falling off- through New Years, past Valentine’s day, and St. Patrick’s Day. It was the Easter tree, the Maudi Grad tree…
I have been told that late in the spring, when they moved from that house, the movers finally took the tree and put in on the curb. Thus there were no more live Christmas trees.
So we went to the nursery and found the perfect 8ft Christmas tree. And it does indeed smell wonderful. And we have been decorating it a little each night. And that is the hard part. Because my mother collected Christmas ornaments for over 40 years. And now I have them. And they are wonderful and beautiful and amazing and make me feel close to her….but they also make me aware that she is not here. She Loved Christmas
I sobbed while hanging the first few ornaments on the tree. It was surprising how hard it was to see these glistening ornaments, some I remember as a child and was not allowed to touch (Small klutzy child + delicate ornaments = disaster). There were all the angels, and animals and Christmas mice, and even the cute little Christmas Octopus ornament (I bought that one for her). There was the little sequin drum that she made with my sister and cousin. There was the ball with the cork oriental building inside. There was the Christmas Skunk ornament (it sounds weird, but is really cute).
And there was putting up her absolute favorite Christmas display – the nativity. It is a sight to see. While it is not an ornament on the tree, it is a display that was very close to her heart.
Slowly, as each ornament is hung, and each display or decoration is arranged, and the tree glistens with its lights, it gets just a tiny bit easier. Because I do feel like she is near. And because she did love Christmas.
And so as I smell the scent of the tree, and see her ornaments hanging, I find the sweet in the bitter. I find the comfort in the quiet glow of the lights and the soft sound of Christmas carols…I miss her so very much, but know somehow, someway, she and Santa are having a great conversation. I hope she puts in a good word for me.