19 December 2013
Getting to the Joy
I did not enjoy getting our Christmas decorations down from the attic.
No I did not.
Not that anyone enjoys the process of going into their only-visited 4x a year attic, but I didn't want the stuff in my house at all. With every box opened, my chest grew tighter. My head felt foggier. I felt grief tug at all my muscles. I couldn't decide where anything should be set. I couldn't decide if we should use anything that was my mother's. I kept thinking, "Mom loved Christmas. She loved to decorate. She wants you to decorate (yes, I talk to myself in third person), and she wants her stuff to be used by someone who will love it," but my heart wasn't in it.
"For the kids. Gotta do it for the kids."
"No. Do it for you. You need this. Do it for yourself."
It took me two days to do what normally takes less than one, and the dining room tree was still in storage. I was finally satisfied with most of the decorations. The tree, admittedly, looked beautiful in our living room, but all over the tree, the one I see every single morning as soon as I come down my stairs, the one I stare at throughout the day, is my mother.
The Rudolph ornament set she gave to us our first Christmas, when we were still students and would have had nothing to put on a tree but strings of popcorn and cranberries.
Fred and Wilma, a brown and pink gingerbread couple with my toddler teeth marks, a hand-crafted snowman from a craft bizaar...heirlooms she chose for our tree years ago.
Pearl white nativity, porcelain nutcracker that plays real music, angel glittering gold...each year of my marriage represented by some ornament she chose especially for us.
Snowglobe with actual water, purple ballet slippers, Dora the Explorer, Peter Pan...she bought ornaments for the children each year too.
My tree, in so many ways, is her tree too, and she isn't even here to see it. It sports my "White Christmas" angel, as I call her, and my silver garland, and my Mickey Mouse ornaments and homemade child crafts, candy canes, and travel souviniers, but, when I look at it, it is just as much her as it is me. We had similar taste.
These are good things.
I added only a few things to the tree that were hers because I couldn't bear to add too much yet.
Two plastic ornaments, one red and one gold, that my mother told me my grandmother gave to her when she got married. I remember my grandparents having the same ornaments on their own tree when I was a little girl.
One hand-painted ceramic ornament I remember Mom making when I was a little girl.
After four or five days of looking at the Christmas tree and yelling at it (only in my head), the village, the mantle dressed in red candles and stockings and candlestick holders that spell out "JOY," I decided I loved all of it.
I mixed just enough of Mama into my own favorite things.
And one week after the first tree was dressed for the season, we put the second tree in the dining room and decorated it in all it's finery. Every time I walk past the dining room, I stop to look at it. It is breathtaking. It brings me joy.
There are moments when I miss my mother profusely, and all of these Christmas decorations stirred all those feelings to the surface, but it isn't just Mom that the decorations reflect.
It's Daddy too.
They both loved Christmas.
And what would they want for me this Christmas season?
And I have it.
I am living the Christmas legacy my parents left to me, and I am remembering deeper that the sweet little Christ child became a man and died so that I could live.
I know so many people who lost a parent this past year, and I pray that, no matter how hard this season is for each of us, that we remember that our loved ones want joy for us. Yes, I miss my parents so much that sometimes I physically ache, but I always have joy.