Saturday, December 22, 2012

Passing along the memories

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.

20 comments:

Linda Reeder said...

There is definitely melancholy mixed with all of the memories, for lost youth, for young children, for "the good old days". I get sad when I see photos of a young me with my once long ago small children.
But then I count my blessings: Grandchildren now near me and bringing magic back to Christmas, health and happiness, a loving family and friends.
Yes, I have boxes of memory ornaments too, but we are still adding to them and they are still all on my big tree every year. I'm not ready to give them away, and my kids are not ready to take them.

Janette said...

AS the ornaments make their way to new trees
we know that we will live on in the memories of our children.
It makes sense that they are used and appreciated. You can visit them as they grow ever older.
Merry Christmas.
May the Christ Child's love continue to shine in your wonderful family.
Yes, you are right, Life is good!

DJan said...

I don't put up a tree, but my siblings do. When I have visited them during the Christmas holiday, I've reminisced over the ornaments that grace their trees, ones made and acquired over the years of our family. I am happy to see them and know they are displayed and cherished whether or not I am there.

We have only added a few seconds to our days so far, Linda, but we're on our way. In a few short days you'll be in the sunshine, however. Thinking of you during this season of loving and giving. :-)

turquoisemoon said...

I'm not ready to give up any of mine. Many were painted by my husband before he passed.

June said...

We don't have a tree this year and all the ornaments are still in their storage place. But I know the slow process of placing each ornament on the tree, remembering where it came from, who said what at the time... It is bittersweet. It's funny, too, that your son has such different memories. Makes me wonder if such things are not the roots of oral histories.

Lynilu said...

I've been thinking that I need to do the same thing, lessen the burden both physical and emotional, of the Christmas boxes and tubs in storage. I haven't decorated but a couple times in the past 7 years since moving here and perhaps as many in the 7 before that. My daughter is coming in a few days, so I may not have time now, but soon.

Bonnie said...

You are so fortunate that your children want the ornaments. I've kept a box of my son's hoping for the day when he'll settle down enough to want to have them.

Kathleen McCoy said...

That's wonderful to be able to pass on ornaments -- with a rich history -- to your children! They'll keep memories going for many years to come. Bob's parents made all the ornaments we hang on our tree. Every year, in the first ten years of our marriage, we get get another set of handmade sequined or needlepoint or stuffed ornaments. Bob's mother died after that 10th Christmas. But every time we hang the ornaments on the tree or look at the tree and admire the beauty of these tiny gifts, we feel she is very much with us!

MyMaracas said...

I see your Christmases, like mine, are awash in memories. And you are as glad as I to be halfway out of the dark.


We have been so fortunate, in that our kids, though grown, are still in town. I buy each one an ornament each year, and last year my older son took all of his for his own tree. It left quite a lot of sad, empty space, though that was the plan all along. I'm sure your kids will treasure those ornaments from their childhood.

I do hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

Jackie/Jake said...

This falls into my blog that you commented on a week ago http://junkboattravels.blogspot.com/2012/12/life-changes.html

You reminded me that I should have mentioned the sorting and decluttering of my Christmas ornaments and memories. They ones that mattered went to family or good friends that would enjoy them. The rest went to charity.

Perpetua said...

Linda, thank you for this beautiful and touching post. Our tree ornaments don't get used since I retired, as we always spend Christmas and New Year at our two children's houses and a tree at home seems superfluous. But I still treasure them and their memories and perhaps one day will use them again.

Enjoy your Christmas and have a wonderful trip to Arizona in the New Year.

Ms Sparrow said...

I haven't had a real tree for years so my ornaments don't get used either. I have been thinking about giving them to my kids and grandkids too.

Bob Lowry said...

Best wishes for a loving and joyful holiday season. Have a safe trip to Tucson. We'll keep the sun up for you and Art!

Tom Sightings said...

Nice reflection on the ornaments, but I can't say I've noticed the days getting any longer. I'll notice when I go south in January.

Demandra said...

I was so grateful when my mama gave us our little childhood ornaments. It's especially sweet given that I'm so far away from family. Helps me to feel connected this time of year when we're all so spread out and not able to be together. But I have to admit, they sometimes make me wanna cry as well.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I hope you and Art have had a wonderful Christmas.

Retired English Teacher said...

This was a great thing for you to do for many reasons. You got to share in the joy the others had of selecting ornaments and remembering the thoughts that each memory brought to mind.

I have many sentimental, memory filled ornaments. They mean so much to me. I always love putting them on the tree. I'm not ready to give them away. The may be from old boyfriends and days gone by, but they remind me of a special time in my life. I have written notes that I keep with these ornaments to let my children know the history and to designate to whom I wish to leave the ornament if they wish to take it when I am gone.

Galen Pearl said...

I hope you had a merry Christmas. I wanted my children to feel sentimental about our ornaments, especially those I bought for them as children and some that date back to my childhood. So far, no sign that they have any attachment to them. But someday....

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

A few years ago we gave our daughter her choice of ornaments for her first tree with her hubby. Now her children proudly point out their favorite ornaments on their tree and their eyes shine as they talk about how beautiful the tree is. They know many of the ornaments on our tree as well, so we figure they'll happily accept them when we no longer can use them.

The Odd Essay said...

My daughter got married nearly 30 years ago and my granddaughters are 27 and 25. I have bought a special ornament for each of them every year - something depicting their life or loves. Now my granddaughters have their own homes (and trees).. and I have started the same tradition for my great-granddaughter. They love to get out their own ornaments each year and remember what they were like that year. I don't even put up a tree... I just can't bear to celebrate without having my kids closeby. I can so much relate to your taking those ornaments off and taking the tree down. Even as I write this I start crying... both for you and for me... for years past and memories that well up at unexpected times. How good that your kids took those ornaments to make them part of their own tradition.