Each year like clockwork, Tim grumbles about having to lug all the Christmas decorations down from the attic the weekend after Thanksgiving. It has been our tradition to put the tree and all the decorations up on this day for at least the last 10 years.
When my stepkids were younger, it was usually Taylor and I setting up the tree while Tim and Timothy would either supervise or not pay the least bit of attention at all.
But this year marked a new moment in Christmas decorating at our house, whereas both my boys were fully engaged in wanting to “help” put up the tree as much as their little brains would allow. Taylor came over to partake in the tradition again with Squeak in tow. And while her father and I took turns holding the baby, she sat for a little while helping Sweet Pea put the first ornaments on the tree. But like any new mother, her exhaustion got the best of her, so we sent her and baby on their way with a hot home-cooked meal to go. It was nice to have Taylor there to keep the tradition going. Some things don’t change, they actually do just get better with time.
But after dinner, the boys and I dug back into finishing the decoration of the tree. And while most of the ornaments awaiting their time to be placed on the tree were given a voice and an imaginary personality since Sweet Pea was playing with them on the table and Pooh Bear dropped a few on the floor that were wrapped in tissue paper because he lacks the understanding of “gentle” right now, it was still the first time that the boys took an active role in decorating for the holidays.
Once the tree was fully decorated in all of its glory, I had to stand back and stare for a little while because it is truly amazing how many memories one single inanimate object can hold. I can actually still remember when we bought this Christmas tree when it was just the four of us — me, Tim, Timothy and Taylor — one evening at a Walmart. We were still only dating and his existing tree had celebrated its last Christmas and was about to become a ghost of Christmases that once were.
Personally, I love the holidays and everything that comes with it — the cookies, the lights, the decorations, the music the sites and the natural spirit that surrounds everyone this time of year. I don’t actually truly know why I love it so much because I never have any money to really buy anyone anything good enough to knock their socks off. But growing up, the holidays were always a staple in our house with my father’s various-sized Christmas trees scattered throughout the house, his thousands of ornaments on the tree, our own Christmas and Christmas Eve traditions and the fact that it was just my father’s favorite holiday.
But after Pop died, the holidays changed for me altogether, taking on a whole different persona. One that always held a bit of discomfort not only because he wasn’t there to celebrate any more, but rather he was the glue that held the family together during the holidays, always finding new things for us to do every weekend all over St. Louis.
But then the same thing happened after Timothy died because he also had a strange love for the holidays that he never dared admit. But the discomfort surrounded me at first like an itchy sweater that you really want to be comfortable so you just keeping wearing it over and over again, but all you end up with is red irritated skin from all the scratching, except you just can’t bring yourself to throw it away because you just hope one day it will feel better.
Each year since Sweetheart’s death, we’ve continued to try to do new things with the boys to make the holidays a little more memorable and a little less painful. And it has worked for the most part, but there is always a tinge of sadness to everything we do especially something that we know that he would’ve love to do or seen his little brothers do.
Except in the center of it all is that Christmas tree standing a little crooked in the corner of the living room. Ornaments overflowing and filling every branch. Ones from my childhood. Ones from my stepkids’ childhoods. And the ones we’ve collected along the way for the boys and just in general because they were just too cute to pass up.
But like so many things in our life, that tree holds so many memories that make us laugh, cry, smile and simply shake our heads. And just like the expression ‘if walls could talk,’ I always wonder the same thing ‘if the Christmas tree could talk.’ I often wonder how can this tree stand up from the weight of all those memories after years and years of new memories. From Timothy’s ‘Baby’s first Christmas’ ornament to the 2009 ornament we bought to remember him that holds one of his senior pictures, lifetimes are often held for all of us to admire and remember this time of year on a simple tree, whether real or fake.
This time of year is always a little bittersweet for all of us because we miss the ones we’ve lost with only one true wish for Christmas — for one more hug, one more conversation, one more chance to just hear their voice say “I love you.” But then we are filled with joy for the wonderment that can be seen in our children especially now that we have a new addition in the family.
The holidays still always tend to bring out another side of me because I want the boys and soon our grandchild to remember the happiest memories from this time of year as they grow up. Our sadness is always at bay because we will always wish that Timothy and Pop were here to share it with them.
But we are each given one life to live and while no one ever said it would be easy. The holidays should be a time for us to remember the blessings we have been given, the miracles we have been bestowed and the memories we make day in and out in order to help remind us that we are still alive. While my kids are making their lists for Santa, mine is simple for another memorable holiday season with plenty of smiles, hugs, kisses and maybe a few snowflakes to make this another White Christmas to remember.
May your house always be filled with laughter, the smell of baking cookies and the feeling of unconditional love this time of year! Happy Holidays from the Hasamears!