I used to have themed Christmas trees. I had seven in the living room, and the kids each had one and I'm pretty sure a couple small ones were scattered about, too. A snowman tree, Santa tree, angel tree, and trees for just my ornaments, my husband's, the kids' ornaments—it was the only time I really decorated for a holiday. I have ornaments from every Christmas of my life, and it shows. My first Christmas, alone? I have at least five ornaments. And every year I greet them like old friends. Or I used to.
My Santa and angel from 1969 are something I know will be there in their cotton-candy pink glory each year.
But it's hard now. Because in between them are mixed golf ball Santas and Sponge Bobs who belonged to my late husband, and every time I unwrap that piece of paper that used to feel like an early Christmas gift, I now feel a mix of anticipation and fear.
Because I want to honor his memory, and I want my children to know their father is still part of our celebration of the holidays (and every day), but I also know that it's a painful reminder of loss with each unwrapped piece of our history.
That first year, I couldn't even bring the ornaments out of the attic. Last year, I got them onto the tree, but somebody else had to put them away. This year, it took me three tries and a meltdown in the shed to get the decorations into the house.
But it gets better. I was able to help hang some of his ornaments on the tree. And children are the balm of healing like no other salve of this earth. As I watched them hang too many ornaments from the tips of a single branch, it made me smile. Some day they will know that the branches are stronger toward the trunk, but right now they want nothing more than to make sure the beauty of their ornament is seen RIGHT NOW. RIGHT HERE. UP FRONT. And who can blame them for that kind of passion? Even the tree tries its hardest to support their dreams.