For years, I acquired a new Christmas ornament sometime during the year. A box of plain old-fashioned balls for my newlywed year, a special edition for each of my two infant boys, a little gold church from a boyfriend when I first moved to Seattle, a teddy bear from another relationship, a Gumby treetop ornament from who knows where, a set of eight tiny brass musical instruments, a Nutcracker-style wooden soldier. The box grew fuller each year until we needed two boxes to store them all. When Art and I got together 20 years ago, some of his ornaments got added to the bunch. Each ornament was laden with memories: when I got it, the circumstances of my life at the time, all the trees in all the houses I've lived in.
Three years ago we bought a live tree in a pot. I put on my beloved Christmas CDs and decorated the tree by myself. When it was done, I looked at it and started to cry. For all the memories, for the sadness of all the kids grown and gone. Then I took all the ornaments off the tree, boxed them, and asked Art to please put the tree outside in the yard. Which he did without even rolling his eyes. Not in front of me, anyway.
This year I asked for another live tree and Art said no, he didn't think so, since we're leaving for Arizona on January 1, and didn't I remember what happened when we put up the tree the last time?
It was time, I thought, to pass the memories along. We saw six of our eight children in the weeks before Christmas. I asked them to look through the ornaments and take the ones that had special memories for them. Art's older daughter Melissa took several - one was from her first year of life. My son James took his special edition ball, the little gold church, the teddy bear and the Gumby. He told me his memories of each of them. They were nothing like my memories. They were about how he remembered seeing them nearly all his life, for all those years of trees. He and his girlfriend have a larger tree this year, and need more ornaments. Art's youngest son Greg took several also. He remembered the year we went to the Puyallup Victorian Christmas celebration when he was little and he picked the Nutcracker soldier to put on our tree.
Now most of my memory-laden ornaments have gone to other trees. And that is a good thing.
On another topic, I am profoundly grateful that the solstice has arrived and the days are now getting longer. I wish they were getting less rainy so that I could go for my daily walk without having to dash out during the sun break that may or may not happen during a day. I actually wish they we were getting some snow, but it's not cold enough around here for snow very often. My sister Alyx, in Alaska, is grateful for the solstice as well. She had a bad day today with temperatures way below zero. You can read about it on her blog here.
I love the quiet days just before Christmas. Especially when daylight lasts a few minutes longer today than it did yesterday. I light the candles and put on the music, and I have my good, good memories, and we maybe make some new ones.