Monday, January 18, 2016

Putting Away Christmas .

I just put Christmas away. Usually by Jan 1, I am ready, ready to free up space and declutter and putting away the Christmas decorations creates that illusion in our small space. Last year Phil put away most of the decorations, I struggled with vertigo. As I went through this year- I noticed things not stored the way I would have or in the order I would have. Yet the decorations were fine. The memories were preserved. The biggest "crisis" came in the form of a singular red ornament I noticed on the tree.

A couple years ago, my mom gave me the last remaining ornament from our original batch as a family. A red glass ornament. It was packaged carefully in tissue paper in a very special decorative box. The ornament didn't get put on the tree. It sat on my desk with a picture of our family by the tree at my grandma's,  the last Christmas before the Connolly side was ravaged by cancers. Last year a pewter ornament with my grandma's picture, rounded out the display. As I work, I can sit back and they look down and remind me what I am fighting for.

This year, the kids did great with the tree. Our new couch freed up enough space for it to be in the living room. I was so excited to be able to lay on the couch each night with Phil and have the tree there. Kiera took special pride in passing along how the ornaments needed to be balanced and carefully shifting them. Bella danced around with the tree skirt on as an actual skirt. Usual tradition is that they hang ornaments, we reminisce where each on came from and then when they get bored with the tree- or in the next couple of days- I put on the finishing touches. Beads, ribbons, ornaments that unify the eclectic conglomeration of memories dangling from branches. I admire decorated trees, unique themes and matching everything- but I adore our mishmash of ornaments. It is us.

Each year we consult the historical documents(last years christmas photos) to determine whose turn it is to hang the topper. The choice of topper determines the tree's theme- we have a snowman which usually goes with blue ribbons and silver snowflakes. We have an angel that usually goes with creme and gold accents. Phillip has been asking for a star for years and I found one this year that matched some gold ribbon I found last year. The lights were white, which created a problems- there are strict tree rules- Phil likes multicolor lights on the tree. Since he has very little say otherwise- I don't mess with that. The historical documents showed that it was Kiera's turn to hang the topper. She loved the gold star and chose gold and teal accents.  SO before we could hang the ornaments- we had to find a way to make the star work. I knew Phil had about 25 other things that needed his attention, but he sat with us trying bulb after bulb, getting the star up to snuff.

I spend an inordinate amount of time "fluffing" the tree to make the branches all lay the way they should after being cooped up for a year in the rafters. Of course there are 2 strands of lights (prelit my A$$) that are not functioning and due to time constraints- we just throw a few more strands in the mix. We finally call in the troops- the entire living room dusted in various colors of glitter. You know it's Christmas when it looks like an angel farted all over everything. Phil carefully unwraps ornaments, I set up the ornament ER- glue, ribbons and extra hangers for whatever crisis might unfold. There is copious ingestion of egg nog. The kids are comparing personal ornaments. I just watch, mostly loving how they interact and share memories. I am saving energy for the "finishing".

But as I look at the tree- I don't want to fix it- I think it's pretty hysterical how Phillip clumped all of his superhero ornaments together. He takes great pride in carefully placing the baby Jesus he made in kindergarten right below the star- his place of honor. Kiera carefully spaces her barbie ornaments. Splashes of purple around the tree are by Lily- dora, barbies, jasmine. The tripler ornament the year she lit the tree. The alex's lemonade stand ornament. Bella is willy nilly. She has the fewest ornaments in her personal box, mostly because she breaks things , but she tells Lily its because she is so much younger, her collection will grow. Someday they will take their ornaments and have their own tree. They ask one by one if its ok to hang my special ornaments. I let them, reserving a few of my favorites.

As Kiera and I finish the tree- light turquoise beads and gold ribbons and snowflakes. I see the red ball hanging there. One of the ornaments I used to lay under the tree and make faces into. Phil freezes. Where is the box?? The special box? He has packed up most of the boxes and moved them back to the garage. He grabs a nearby box and a sharpie writing on it: Jen's last family ornament and carefully lays it inside and puts it up on the cabinet. I am mumbling about the box and it's place of honor and I want to display it. The things that ornament has witnessed. A happy family in Ohio. Kids growing. A move to Colorado, several Christmases. Hanging precariously from a 10 foot tree as a crazy cat clawed it's way to the top, toppling the tree. Many of it's brethren were lost that year. The loss. The move to the apartment, a smaller tree. Being left in the box, the sadness too great. A move back to Ohio and a great journey to Hawaii. Part of me feels bad for not letting it hang on the tree. That's what it is supposed to do- but mostly I want to protect it and the memories it holds. And then I realize the memories are mine. Unless I share the stories, they will only be mine. It is time.

SO yesterday. Kiera helped me pack up Christmas. We found the box for the ornament and I shared with her the story. Just like when we took the ornaments out- we took the time to carefully pack them away with a story. How that ornament came to be part of our family. Some of the things it's seen and now it's ours. And as we put away Christmas, I felt better knowing the memory was mine to share.

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Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)