A treasure trove of Christmas nostalgia

It will be a quiet Christmas this year ¬since my adult children are spending the holiday with their own families.


Staff Writer

It will be a quiet Christmas this year ¬since my adult children are spending the holiday with their own families.

This year I toyed whether I would actually set up a tree at all. Yet as the big day drew near I couldn’t help but want to keep tradition alive and celebrate by putting up the family tree.

It wasn’t a difficult task setting up the six-foot artificial tree. Thank goodness there was no heavy lifting and sawing involved.

I was eager to get the tree in place and start the decorating ritual. I pulled down the attic stairs and made my up.  Just where I’d placed them last year were the red totes that held my family Christmas decorations. I have to admit I was a little more than excited to once again unwrap these family treasures and begin the tree decorating.

To make the moment even more special I heated up a cup of hot chocolate and added mini-marshmallows just before turning on a Bing Crosby CD featuring the traditional holiday hit, “White Christmas.”

I took a minute to linger at the living room window. It was a Christmas-card-perfect Montana winter’s eve.

As I looked across the snow filled yard my mind drifted back to earlier Christmas’ when it wasn’t unusual to have a snow fort or three or four snowmen standing guard in the front yard.

As I lifted the lid of the first red box, my mind wandered back to the many other times this very lid was lifted, causing an excited stir among my children in those Christmas’ past.

I carefully unwrapped the first shiny glass bulb; I couldn’t help but revel in the memory of when it became part of my collection.

This was the bulb given to me by my dear mother. It was in the shape of a cherry pie. I could almost see her smiling face as she would cheerfully ask, “Who wants pie?”

I missed her now more than ever as the holidays were here. Oh, how wonderful it would be to have her here once again, to settle in with a cup of coffee and share all the latest news in the family. Her memory was sweet as I placed that shiny slice of pie on the branch.

I reached down into the box as my fingers searched for the next wrapped ornament.  My eyes closed as I carefully unwrapped the next decoration.

Ah-hah, the little Minnie Mouse dressed in her holiday best. That trip to Disney Land had been a special family memory. The kids had so enjoyed our time in the Magic Kingdom. Recollections and shouts of sheer joy came to mind when I envisioned the children riding the thrilling roller coaster log as it splashed its way through Splash Mountain. The happiness on their faces helped light up the world on that vacation so many years ago.

The next ornament took me back to another time and a totally different emotion.

In my hands rested a little chipmunk dressed as a mailman, his arms full of mail as he stuffed them into a little mailbox. This comical bulb had been a surprise gift from “Mailman Mark,” our mail carrier in Vista, Calif.

My preschool age children had developed a special bond with our mail carrier those many years ago. They joyfully ran to the mailbox each morning as he made his daily deliveries. This cute ornament was given to our family the day that Mailman Mark came to our house to share Christmas dinner.  He was going through a tough time that Christmas. His wife had left him. And not too long after his divorce was final, Mailman Mark discovered he was fighting a hopeless battle with cancer. He soon had to give up his mail route.

Little did we know that the Christmas he spent with us would be his last. As I hung the little chipmunk mail carrier on the tree, it was an honor to have been given that special opportunity to share my children’s Christmas joy with a man who was short on his own. The memory of that celebration long ago is now a treasured memory of a dear family friend.

I reached down to lift out a treasure trove ¬– a little box filled with my children’s special handmade school ornaments. Each one was created with love as they excitedly anticipated watching mother’s face when she opened their special gift.  As each ornament was tenderly lifted from its casing, sparkling glitter wafted to the carpet below.

Each of these precious decorations, many graced with school snapshots of smiling faces sporting toothless grins, become more cherished with each passing year.

What wonderful memories to reflect back upon; memories of when children were little and when the wonder of Christmas still lived in their hearts.

My mind ventured back to a Christmases past when we celebrated Jesus’s birthday with a zillion candles on a special birthday cake, to the early morning awakenings and cries of delight as the children opened their gifts from Santa.

I can almost close my eyes and picture them dancing around this tree as each one stood tippy-toed trying to hang their special ornament as high up in the boughs as they could reach. The sweet memory of those beloved babies wrapped in their red and white fleece footed sleepers is a memory that many parents hold dear.

I rested back with a smile and imagined each of them, now in their own homes, passing on our family traditions to yet another generation.

The final ornaments I found are the dated commemorative ornaments that have been collected for each Christmas over these past decades.

Many years ago it had become a tradition to go out to the after-Christmas sales and hunt for that one unique, quality ornament that represented the highlight of that particular year. (And if at half-price, so much more to celebrate.)

These marked ornaments can now be read like the chapters in a book of life.

Our first Christmas held promise of a long life together. This particular ornament had lasted longer than the promise did. Now a bittersweet memory, but still a reminder that this is life. Enjoy the beautiful moments and the joy they hold and move on.

The tree, with each individual ornament hung in place, now speaks volumes. Baby’s First Christmas, Our New Home – life, like this beautiful decorated tree, is filled with memories that are full of happiness, sadness and highs and lows.

Sitting back with the lights dimmed and the decorated tree all lit, I admired the beautiful finished product in its completeness as it radiates awe, as life should. It represents a collection of years as they have unfolded and their memories – one of God’s wonderful gifts to each of us.

May this Christmas be one filled with joy and may the journey of a life well-lived warm your own hearts.