It begun with the Christmas tree – a small, three foot artificial that my mother had bought me many moons ago. As I pulled down and plumped up its synthetic limbs, I couldn’t help but remember the day I entered my apartment and found it set up for me. I was being rather humbugey that year, refusing to succumb to the conventional need of decorating. She had snuck into my humble abode, adorned it with lights and miniature ornaments. I still remember the pleased expression on her face when I hugged her, thanked her, and told her it was beautiful. It was something I hadn’t realized I had needed that year.
“We used to go The Property and cut down a tree every year” my hubby says from behind us. His eyes have taken on a glassy, far way look, akin to a person who is trying to retrieve the last vestiges of a dream.
“We did too, that first year we were together. And you picked out the homeliest looking little tree. We brought it home and set it up in the corner…”
“…and those two cats…”
“…would use the rocking chair as a launching pad to hurl themselves into the tree…”
“…there were pine needles everywhere…”
“…and you swore that you would never have a mess like that again…”*
“When we were kids, we used to travel all across the country visiting family.”
“Us too. And mom would drag out the gold plated china on Christmas Eve…”
And so the memories flowed, the way they do every Christmas. Our voices soft and dampened with a slight touch of sadness as we remembered the celebrations of long ago.
*It was the last year we ever had a real Christmas tree. It was also the year his father passed away. Strange, that it took me this long to make the connection.
I spent the better part of last week prepping and preparing for a melancholy-free Christmas. As a stepmother, there were just certain areas of life that I did not intrude upon, and Christmas was one of them. It wasn’t that I didn’t try, or that my attempts were met with scorn – they would, at least, bravely stick out their tongues to sample the dishes and admit that they weren’t too bad. It just wasn’t their thing. They couldn’t taste the warmth I was trying to recreate. Truth be told, neither could I. And that was probably more the reason why I didn’t continue on with them.
And we did make it out to The Property this year. We went, as a family, when my youngest step-daughter came home for Christmas.(I cannot tell how great it is to be past the teenage years.)
We hiked through the forest. We talked. We laughed. We reminisced about how things were and we all agreed that we should go out there more often. It was a pretty great Christmas for us this year. It was the first year, in a long time, that we were able to look back at the past without having it degrade the present. We were able to generate some of the warmth that this holiday season should be filled with and created some tender memories to help carry us through till next year.It was more than my little heart would have hoped for.