Our first Christmas as a married couple, Phil and I had a ‘tree trimming’ party and friends brought ornaments. Over seventeen years of marriage we collected ornaments from our travels and special ones to signify something significant for each year. A ‘first Christmas together’ ornament frames a photo from our first year of marriage. A Harley-Davidson ornament for the year we bought a new motorcycle. A ‘new home’ ornament when we moved into a new house. Ornaments from our annual ski trips and vacations around the world.
Each year we’d decorate the tree while listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra and drinking wine. Once the tree was done we would sit in front of the fire, finishing off the wine, admiring our tree and reminiscing.
The first year after Phil’s death I wasn’t sure whether to put up a tree. My sister Cynthia and nephew Christopher were staying with me. Christopher agreed to help with the tree. It turns out he loves Trans-Siberian Orchestra! He listened patiently as I told him the story of each ornament. Then he added a couple Nascar ornaments of his own. Cynthia gave me two adorable ornaments of chubby mermaids drinking Margaritas to commemorate our almost-weekly Friday night Mexican dinners. Adding their personal touches to the tree felt good.
The week of Christmas I went to London with a friend and brought back a Big Ben ornament. My heart was broken but I was moving forward, starting new traditions and making new memories. Adding new ornaments was a good idea.
Early last year when I sold “our” house and moved into a condo I gave away my big tree and the decorations except for the commemorative ornaments. I didn’t know what my new life would look like but I figured a big tree, all by myself, would be a big hassle.
Then I met Josh. He lived in my building and although I’m about the age of his mother, we quickly became friends. Josh loves to decorate and helped me arrange my new home. “Right here is where your Christmas tree should go,” he said one day while standing in front of my window. “A slim tree would be perfect here,” he continued. I told him about the special ornaments and my memory tree. He agreed to help decorate.
Soon we were shopping for a new slim tree and a few new decorations. I found some burgundy ribbon with animal print swirls. It’s so ‘me!’ Guess what? Josh likes Trans-Siberian Orchestra, too! He decorated the tree with the flair of an artist while we drank wine and I told him the story of each ornament. Here I’d thought the tree-trimming would be lonely in my new home and now it was fun again!
This year Josh brought a friend to help decorate. A few neighbors came to watch. We all oohed and ahhed at how beautifully they adorned the tree. They made a huge bow for the top with my animal print ribbon. We even changed the music this year. It was joyous.
As I sit looking at the tree my eyes wander from ornament to ornament remembering where and when I bought each one. The more recent ones also signify bringing ‘our’ old tradition forward into ‘my’ new life. Old traditions blending with the new. Remembering the past, savoring the present and looking forward to the future.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?