Today is the day; I’m setting up the Christmas decorations with the boy. It’s been our family tradition that mom and the boys would decorate. Mostly because she was better at it and my less than enthusiastic desire to participate was secondary or maybe even way, way, way down the list…. Really.
I love the result of holiday decoration. This year I wanted to put up everything the week of Thanksgiving just so we could enjoy the festiveness of the season longer. There just hasn’t been enough time.
Today, though, we found the time. Box after box came out of the secluded and not always easy to get to location for Christmas decorations. Then unpacking and sorting through stuff. More stuff than I know what to do with. How did Carrie find a place for all of this? The boy knows more about this than I do. None the less, I carry on. “Hey dad, here’s one of mom’s ornaments.” Yes, there it is, in blazing letters C A R R I E on a miniature snow globe. There’s one for each of us or at least there was…we can’t find mine.
Then the boy says, “I remember making this” followed by “who made this one, dad?” He holds up a painted snowman. I have no clue; that was her department. She knew everything about every ornament. Each has a story behind it. Many are homemade while others are gifts and still others came from the store but each one was specially chosen with some meaning behind it. The ornaments are an accumulation from the last twenty-seven years of life and some from even longer ago. There are ornaments brought into our family from our respective childhoods. The rest of the ornaments seem to form a family timeline. We have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—the original ones, M & M’s of every color, Marvin the Martian, Baby’s first, others with notations of a year, and the kissing reindeer.
The good news is that the stories are not lost. Carrie was formally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on the 27 December 2010. After New Year’s sometime we were alone one night and decided to put the tree away. I got the video camera out and asked to her to explain every ornament. It was bittersweet but even then we knew there were no promises. When we finished recording we hugged for a long time; probably kissed too. I mean, we were alone with no children in the house… Knowing now the course of her cancer it was a wise decision as she probably would not have been able to go through them in 2011. The bad news is that I’m not sure where the video is located right now. Packing after the house fire in June caused many things to be lost to disorganization but the tape is here—somewhere.
At the end of the evening the tree has been trimmed. It looks great. This year we are in a new home without Carrie but even with all the changes there is joy and happiness in decorating. As I survey the scene I begin to consciously think through our family holiday traditions. I recognize some will be the same, others will need to be adjusted, and new ones will emerge. Perhaps the best process is to talk about how we can honor mom and celebrate Jesus. But that’s a discussion for another evening; tonight we’ll bask in the glow of the Christmas tree lights and admire our handiwork.