In October I wrote 31 letters to my mom to deal with the two year anniversary of her taking her life. I thought about my mother almost constantly in October and now as the calendar has turned to December I can’t stop thinking about my Dad, whose been gone for 7 years now, which seems like a huge number of years to be without him.
7 Christmases without my Dad, blah.
I’ll never be able to do a Christmas season without longing for him, without wondering how he would have celebrated the season with his Grandkids. I have his favorite ornaments on our tree and every year when we unwrap them his spirit is seems so close.
Every December growing up our family headed out to fresh-cut our Christmas tree from one of our local tree farms in Michigan. My Dad always wore his ridiculous “Joseph and the coat of many colors” hat and brought along his rusty red handled saw.
We would scout for trees with great color and strong branches, but my Dad always focused on the trunk. We’d spend an hour or so seeking the tree with the straightest trunk and fewest bald spots. Then we’d pay and into the trailer it went.
Some years even the straightest looking trunks fooled my Dad and he’d find himself waging an epic battle coercing it into the tree stand. A few years he ended up screwing it down into the floor, right through the carpet.
Every freshly cut tree contained something intangible and special, it brought a forced togetherness in spite of the worst family storms we were weathering.
For me each year’s tree takes on a life of it’s own. Even if you have an artificial tree, or three as we do, it never comes together quite the same. The exact same ornaments and lights create something unique and lovely every year.
When I was a child they were filled with wonder, the smell of fresh evergreen and the branches full of ornaments, each with their own stories and memories. The ones we made at kindergarden, the ones my Grandma put in our stockings, the parade of Hallmark rocking horses… they all made my child’s heart sing.
My Christmas tree always speaks to the year we’ve had or the year we have on the way. I can’t explain it, it’s bathed in something special, precious and full of memories, both remembered and made.
This year’s tree feels somehow hopeful, I can’t explain it. When I sit in the light of our Christmas tree with the white lights and swirling red ribbon I feel like this is the best tree we’ve had in years.
This tree speaks not to grief or loss but to family, warmth and something new around the corner.
This year’s tree feels full of Joy and laughter even though it’s a full time job fending off the little hands of would-be ornament thieves.
As we decorated our tree this year my eyes trickled warm tears as Noelle sorted through our ornaments and hung each one with tender care. She told me at least a dozen times how happy she was decorating for Christmas. As we decorated and the Christmas music played, I connected to her with a depth that has been sorely lacking lately.
The year’s tree somehow seems to be solidifying us as a family of four and bringing us a strength to stand tall in the gusts that seems to be finding their way through our front door.
Am I making sense? Do your Christmas trees give off a feeling too?
What does your tree feel like to you this year?
(yes I know that there is no picture from 2009 and yes I know that’s Noelle’s first Christmas. It’s on our old digital camera which is broken. I need to take the card into to Walgreens, maybe I’ll do that today… stop nagging me)