Decorating the Tree

‘Tis the season of memories …

… of Christmas past, little boys who have grown up, and raucous family gatherings.

2013 Christmas Tree

2013 Christmas Tree

Austin takes me shopping for a Christmas tree at the local supermarket.  He legislates for a large tree, but I like the 3′ nobel spruce and know it will be just right for what’s left of the ornament collection.

After a balancing act with duct tape and cardboard, the noble is ‘righted’ and I lovingly wrap it’s base with the tree skirt, a gift hand-crafted by my mother some 30 years before.  Then the lights – 3 short strands of tiny white shimmer, and the tree is ready for adornment.

Early in the afternoon, mom and Austin come for dinner and a decorating party. While I prepare a carrot ginger soup and baked chicken, the two of them play cards – a gin game. My smile is both inner and outer, filled with joy listening to their chatter and feeling their warmth in the house.

The Gin Players

The Gin Players

After dinner, we sit on the floor and sort the contents of the decoration box. I am the hook attacher, while mom and Austin are the decorators. The first one I pull is actually the first ornament I ever made. A floppy-eared white felt rabbit with a blue nose. Why I made a rabbit for Christmas, I simply do not remember, but it was for Cooper’s first Christmas, 1976, the year my heart broke open with love for my child.

Next, I hand Austin a simple gold felt star with heavy top stitching. This is actually the first ornament that Cooper ever made. I can still see his tiny hands cutting the star shapes, pulling the thread around the edges and poking in the polyester stuffing. When he held it up to show me, there was a glow in his eyes that sparkled even brighter when he attached “his” star to the top of that year’s tree.

Through the years, I had crafted more intricate ornaments – felt stars and hearts with detailed embroidery – lightweight – because each year we had had a live tree and it’s branches wouldn’t bear the weight of heavier glass or metal. Sadly, the collection was lost in a gone-bad storage unit- they all mildewed beyond salvage – but have been replaced over the years with tiny toy bears dressed as Santa or jesters or angels. My decorations are childlike, and that is perfect for me. They tie me to my own memories and to those of when my children were little boys.

The last piece we add is silly Carls’ Jr. winged angel star to top. Almost an embarrassment – but not. This star was collected during a fast food stop after a late winter’s eve soccer practice when the kids were middle-school aged.

Austin, mom and I stand back and look at our creation. “She” (the holiday tree) sits in front of two hung stockings (I am forever hopeful) and stands as a tribute to hope and joy. I am awash in memories of Christmas past …. of the rush and crush of a houseful of grand and great-grandparents … but that’s another conversation.

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