I am having a hard time taking down our Christmas tree this year. The room where it resides, where all the living gets done in our house, is a minefield strewn with boxes, lids, and paper. There are ornaments on the tree, on the couch, on the coffee table, on the floor.
The problem is not that I’m lazy. The problem is that I’m sentimental. Our tree is a 3-dimensional, large-scale family scrapbook. It includes the very first ornaments from our very first Christmas together and at least one for every year we’ve been together. They each have a story; representing where we were geographically and what we were doing. There are also some from my childhood and some that were gifts from family and friends; store bought and handmade; all precious.
Then there are Anna’s ornaments; at least one (usually several) for each of her 18 years. Ornaments she made at school, the Christmas spiders she made with Grandma Franny, the ornaments she picked out with Grandma Grace, the Beanie Baby ornaments, and the Swan Lake and Nutcracker ornaments. There are the exquisite Waterford ornaments from my sister commemorating her birth; and all the other “first Christmas” ornaments. There are the quirky, yet perfect, ornaments she chose for herself every year. These are the ornaments that are kicking my butt.
For as long as I can remember decorating the tree has been a family event filled with laughter and stories and remember whens, and the tradition has been carried out in my own home. Anna helped me decorate the tree this year, and we had laughter and stories and remember whens.
But Anna doesn’t live in our house anymore; she has her own place. So as I dismantle this tree, Anna’s ornaments are going into a separate box. They are hers, for all her trees to come. That has always been the plan.
I plod through this task and remember every detail. I remember her at every age. And I wonder with an extremely heavy heart if this was the last tree she will decorate in our home; the last year these memories will adorn our tree.
I wonder, too, if this is how my mother felt as she packed up ornaments for each of her four children as they journeyed out on their own; shedding her own bittersweet tears for what was and what is to be.