Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Traditions: Old and New

I stopped at McGuckins on Sunday, Boulder's local hardware store with absolutely everything you could want in it, excluding fresh groceries. I'm sure every town has a store similar to it - a catch all place where you can buy housewares, green egg supplies, screws, seasonal Christmas items, art supplies, and garden tools all at one stop.

It was early. I beat the after church crowd and walked up to the outdoor Christmas Tree corral and inquired about a tree. Since Ben and I have been together, we've decorated one Charlie Brown tree and that was many years ago, in Colorado Springs. That fact hasn't stopped our assembly of ornaments. Every year we acquire more through either gifts or hand me downs and they get placed in a big box in the basement. A couple of years ago I added an entire box of fragile glass balls and funny naked lady ornaments from my grandmother's house in Hawaii. And this year I added a bunch of childhood ornaments from Seattle my mom had graciously held onto for me.

Growing up in Oregon, our entire family would make the trek out to a  Christmas Tree farm, hack down a tree and strap it to the top of our wood paneled station wagon. One year my grandmother visited from the islands and insisted on going barefoot, promptly catching pneumonia before her return flight. We saw a little more of Gammy that year and I loved every stollen moment.

Decorating was awesome. My mom would play the obligatory Christmas music while we placed ornaments as high as we could, about four feet beneath the top of the tree. Our house had vaulted wood ceilings and we could get a tall tree (8-10'). My dad would put his favorite ornaments high on the upper branches, balancing out the bottom half. The house smelled like noble fir and fresh baked sugar cookies.

This year I was determined to get a tree. I schlepped the tree home in the back of my car, dropping needles every where. After buying a stand and hacking off the lower branches, the 5' tree sat level and I turned on Christmas music. Ben was out on a run to IKEA and wouldn't be home for a couple of hours. He told me earlier he didn't have time to help so I started stringing the lights and the next thing I knew I had opened every box, revealing little treasures and kept memories.

Pineapple glass bulbs, naked lady eggs, the Grinch and Cat in the Hat. A blend of recent ornaments and old. Each ornament not in its original packaging was wrapped in butcher or tissue paper, wrinkled from years of unwrapping and then re-wrapping. Baby's first Christmas from 1978, quilted unicorns, turtle doves, Mele Kalikimaka bulb. And then, an unexpected well of grief when I came across the leprechaun hat with Bubba printed on it.

Holiday's are like that. Ticking time bombs of emotions. They're a guaranteed trip down memory lane. A way to remember previous holidays with those you love and who are no longer here. And a reminder that there's no time like the present to create new memories.

"Hey baby," a text read from Benjamin. He'd sent it 45 minutes prior. I was so involved in hanging memories from the tree, I didn't hear it. As it turns out, "Hey baby" was to tell me that he wanted to help decorate. By the time he came home, the tree topper lay crooked atop the tree, the lights blinking and the tree weighed down by memories.

He admired the tree, noticing the naked ladies first. And when I pointed out his ornaments, he couldn't remember them. Even the creepy pink elf with tracking eyes was foreign to him. It faces away like a scolded child on a lower branch. Mainly so its eyes don't freak us out. I asked him if I should un-decorate the tree so we could do it together. And he said no, but next year he's all over it. Maybe we'll go to a Christmas Tree farm and hack one down ourselves and avoid getting pneumonia.

Notice the Pink Elf on the bottom branch off to the far right. 

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