Now that the new year no longer feels really new and most folks have forgotten about their resolutions, I am dusting off the keyboard and spending some time pondering things. Since the kids are home with me today due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it seems like as good of a day to be deep in Ponderland as any.
This year, I was in no big hurry to put up the Christmas decorations and found it no problem to put them away quite early. This is not usually the case for me. Usually, I like to get my Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and I like to pack away the decorations towards the very end of break. I like to have as many mornings as I can, sitting in the quietness lit by the sparkling lights. I like to have as many opportunities to soak up the life of that tree. My first ever tree all my own was a replica of a Charlie Brown tree. It was my senior year in college and a friend brought me one – so tiny and straggly that I put it in an empty 2-liter pop bottle and wrapped a towel around it. Mister Soandso gave me some tiny balls to hang on it and it looked perfect. It was the first Christmas where I started to create my own Christmas memories and traditions. It was my first Christmas for me but also it was ours because it was the first Christmas that Mister Soandso and I were together. It was the first Christmas that I began enjoying the celebration. And it was the first Christmas that I started collecting my own “Christmas Stuff” with which I could make the celebration joyful and festive.
But this year was different. I was happy to only put up about 1/2 the decorations we normally do. Some boxes in the attic never even got opened. And yet, it was a joyful and festive celebration.
And now, on January 20th, on another day of festivities for many, I’m getting ready to put some symbols of earlier joyful and festive celebrations away for the last time. Not because I don’t like them, but because we’ve outgrown them.
That red shoe box over there, the one with “X-mas stuff” written on it, held the entirety of Mister Soandso and my Christmas decorations for many years.
We got married on November 28th and my mother-in-law had a family bridal shower for me that included guests making Christmas ornaments for me. That box held them all, plus a few others, for a long, long time. For years, making our home look festive was a simple matter. A string of lights, the red box of ornaments, and our stockings — poof, all we needed for Christmas cheer. And best of all, it was compact. Back then, we moved so often my mother wrote our address in pencil in her address book. We were still in that childless era of proudly packing light.
And then we started collecting. Each year we would get a new ornament and a new Christmas CD. It didn’t take long before we graduated to the blue popcorn tin and a home that actually had a basement. And, of course, then we graduated to our era of joyful and festive celebrations that included first Biggest, then Middlest, and then Littlest.
These two containers, both of which served to keep our ornaments and memories safe for all these years, have grown too small. Now my attic holds a Rubbermaid bin filled 2/3 of the way with those bridal-shower-ornaments, three “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments, and lots and lots of history hanging by thin, bent wire hangers.
Where first there was one, then two, there are now five and yet, still one. Five individuals and one family. Five individuals collecting Christmas ornaments and memories and one box, one family, to hold them all.
Today, a day where I can pull my children close to my heart and wrap my arms around then, is a gift. It is a chance to collect another memory of them and our life together as a family. I’m adding these memories to my mental shoebox…but this is one shoebox that won’t get filled too full.
For all of you who are missing someone, someone you will not be able to gather new memories of, but must hold on tightly to the ones you collected over time, I’m sorry. The human heart is an easily scarred thing. And to all the mothers who worry that their children will never live in the world Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted his children to grow up in, I’m sorry as well. This work for justice and freedom for all is far from being done.