When I was a kid, Christmases were pure joy and fun. It meant cousins, grandparents, decorations, special dinners, holiday treats, and sometimes, winter fun like snowmen and sledding. It meant no school, warm fires, music sing-a-longs and laughter.
Pretty soon I grew up. Christmases were still, for a few years, about family and love and gift giving. Then I met Mike, and being a wife, having a husband, brought new meaning. I was no longer the child but the grown-up, doing the cooking, shopping and wrapping presents. Taking joy in creating and presenting the spirit of the season in the faith we shared.
The last Christmas we spent together in 2012 might have been the best one because Mike was excited like he’d never been with me yet. He helped decorate our little tree, put up the lights, and choose presents to give. I remember sitting outside on our lanai gazing at the lights and ornaments with him. I remember his sense of peace, that year. I always wonder if he knew the end was near for him, because somehow, it felt different. I had no idea it would be our last. But looking back, I wonder if he did.
The years since have been very un-Christmas-y. I have not yet decorated, cooked, or shopped much other than for the grandkids and parents, and minimally at that. Last year I donated the little fake tree we bought together the year we were married, in 1999. It hurt my heart to do so…and yet it hurt my heart even more imagining putting it up without him ever again.
So now, I imagine some other family will be enjoying that little tree. It seems right, somehow, to have passed it along. I will carry the memories with me forever anyway.
I have, however, for some strange, unplanned reason, started collecting Christmas ornaments, which is not something I ever did before. Everywhere I have traveled since he died - Austin, New Orleans, Washington DC, England, Wales, Florida, South Carolina…I have purchased these keepsakes, and why, I’m not sure.
Maybe somewhere inside of me I am imagining that one day, I will have another tree of my own. Maybe someday I will again feel the urge to participate again, to allow the joy of the season to enter in again, and when that happens, I don’t want the only baubles to be ones I remember hanging with him. One day, I am thinking, maybe, I will want to be able to see the new experiences, the new forward motion, the new adventures I have had as being part of me too.
For now, the lone box of Christmas decorations I have kept as I further downsize my world into the new rental house remains closed and stored away. But one day, maybe, I will display it all on a new tree. My childhood, my marriage, and my widowed adventures all together.
One day I will be able to see more clearly, perhaps, how that is all a part of the person I am.