Children grow up, they move away and start families of their own but that does not mean they forget the family they came from.
A few years back my mother gave my sister and I a beautiful gift. She divided her collection of vintage glass ornaments between us. At the time they were downsizing and to her it made sense that we received these ornaments. I don’t think she fully understood how very much those ornaments mean to me.
I have grown up
I have moved away
And I have a family of my own
I will not see my parents nor my sister over this holiday season, but that doesn’t mean that I have lost my connection to them or that I love them any less. It just means that I am devoting my life to creating family memories and traditions with my own girls; just as my parents did for my sister and I.
Knowing that I will not see my parents or sister over the holidays makes my mother’s gift all the more precious. These ornaments are a link to my childhood. Each year, as I gently remove each ornament from its partitioned box I hold a little of my history in my hand and it warms my heart. The delicate glass reflects back my own holiday memories that are wrapped up in Christmas.
It never failed that our Christmas tree would rival Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. My dad said he always felt sorry for those trees and believed they needed a nice Christmas home too. I think the all time worst tree was the one where he had to saw off branches from the bottom and screw them into the top just so it would have a little bulk. After the “best side” of the tree had been found and it had been secured in that horridly flimsy red and green stand, we then proceeded to secure the tree, by string, to little hooks in the wall. On one of my parent’s first Christmases the tree fell down; since then the tree had always been tied to the wall.
Dad and I would then proceed to wrap the lights around the branches; already they were beginning to sag from the weight. My sister and I would stand back squinting our eyes to make sure the lights were evenly distributed. At that point we all began to hang the ornaments on the tree. We had an eclectic collection of ornaments that reflected our family’s adventures and achievements; just as my own Christmas tree does today. At this point the thin branches were barely hanging on!
I remember my mom pulling out the glass ornament boxes each year. She would hold each one tenderly in her hand before she would pass it to my sister or I with the instructions, “Now be careful and find a safe branch to hang it on.” Often, we would hang the ornaments in the middle of the branch so ensure it wouldn’t slip off. I wonder what family memories warmed her heart as she too lifted those glass balls from their tissue paper lined boxes. They must have been as precious as my own memories, as I remember her crying one year when one was accidently broken.
The tinsel was last. There were no decorative ribbons or garland, just thin sparkly strands of silver tinsel that had to be hung up strand by strand. Draping the tinsel over your hand you had to pull a single strand and then drape it over a branch or collection of needles. We always laughed at my sister, because she would hang the tinsel strand by strand, but she would put all of the strands on the same branch! When it was time to take the tree down I do need to make note that each of those strands needed to be removed one by one. They were then stored in a plastic bag for the next Christmas.
I don’t remember a lot of the gifts I received as a child, but what I do remember is the love that filled my home. I remember new PJs and reading The Night Before Christmas and The First Christmas on Christmas Eve. I remember sitting in the dark watching the lights twinkle off of the tinsel and ornaments. I remember dancing in the kitchen with my sister to Christmas music by Boney M. I remember sitting down at the table surrounded by family, friends and mountains of food. I remember laughter and and the warmth that comes from being surrounded by the ones you love.
It is the holidays, and I do miss my family. I will admit I have had to pause in writing this post a few times so that I can wipe away tears. But in all the emotion that is wrapped up in this post I must remember one thing, we may not be together physically but the memories that we each hold dear in our hearts binds us together.
For me these ornaments are a tangible connection to those memories. The ornaments were a gift from my mom, but the greater gift is the Christmas memories she works so hard in creating for my sister and I.
I can only hope that when my own daughters have families of their own they look back on their childhood holiday traditions and memories as fondly as I do mine.