As soon as the turkey-ingested tryptophan wears off and the Thanksgiving nap has been had, we begin digging out the Christmas decorations. We have the nativity scenes, the dancing Santas, the snowman countdown calendar, all the traditional decorations are present. But the thing I love the most about our holiday decorations is the tree.
Since my husband and I were married, we’ve exchanged Christmas ornaments on Christmas Eve. When our older daughter was born, just a week before Thanksgiving, we were inundated with Baby’s First Christmas ornaments. I saved every one of them. We included her and eventually her sister in our Christmas Eve ornament exchange. When my mom moved in with us following her stroke, she became a part of our tradition as well.
Once the tree is up, I hand the girls their ornament boxes. This is my favorite part. I love watching them giggle about the Blues Clues ornaments and remember the time they tried body surfing at Galveston, memorialized by the surfing Santa ornament. My older daughter has a Washington DC ornament, commemorating her first plane ride and her first trip without us. My younger daughter giggles at the softball-playing snowman, marking her first year to play the sport she loves.
It never lasts long enough. And then in a twinkling, the tree is decorated, our daughters retreat to their rooms and I’m typically left alone in our living room, looking at the well-lit tree that represents our lives.
Always, I am overwhelmed with the memory that each ornament brings. Every year, I am overcome with gratitude for the life we get to share with each other. I stand before our family Christmas tree and look at each ornament … and I listen as each one speaks to me and reminds me of the story of our lives.
This ornament, a clay representation of a house with four-square windows and a white picket fence, tells of the new home The Dad and I bought together when we had been married almost two years. We were living in Muskogee and moved in just two days before Thanksgiving of that year. While it wasn’t our very first ornament, it signifies that we were ready to settle down. We were ready to become a family.
The leg-lamp ornament tells of The Dad's love for the movie “A Christmas Story.” And by "love" I mean absolute disdain. I’m certain he’s the only person who gets grumpier after watching this holiday must-see. I’m also certain he blocks the channel that plays it 24-hours on Thanksgiving day, but he’ll never admit to that.
The next year, The Dad got me this "Psychiatric Help" ornament, with Lucy sitting behind her little make-shift desk. I think there's a hidden meaning to it. Again, if there is, he’ll never admit to it.
These jolly Santas buried in the snow next to evergreen trees recall our daughters’ first trips to the mountains. We went in July, drove up to the peaks and let the girls, in their shorts, jump into the snow, burying themselves up to their chests.
The ballerina snowman reminds us of our oldest daughter’s very first dance recital. She was 4 and was to use a teddy bear prop. Midway through the performance, she and a fellow little ballerina got their bears confused. This led to the first ever wrestling-match for her dance company. She’s always been more of an interpretive dancer anyway.
This sweet grouping of ornaments takes us through the first years of our daughters’ lives: There’s a First Christmas Waterford rocking horse ornament, Barney cradling a baby ornament that kinda creeps me out. But it reminds me that the purple dinosaur, even though it drove us crazy, captivated our older daughter’s attention long enough for me to change the laundry. Then there’s the Rudolph ornament, the first ornament that same daughter "made" at preschool. Even at the age of 2, she was an artistic genius.
Some ornaments bring a touch of melancholy. The First Christmas ornament next to the ornament for my own daddy, who died when our oldest daughter was just 6 months old: these can summon a lump to my throat with just a glance.
There’s not one thing on this tree that doesn’t take me to a point on my own life’s map. If ever archeologists were to study our Christmas tree, they’d find everything they need to know about our life.
Because there's this: A live, purring cat, batting at the glass ornament that we got after our first trip to New Orleans.
And a dirty sock. A dirty sock on my Christmas tree. Right next to that cat.
I have no explanation. But, this does represent our life.
Heather Davis is an Oklahoma momma and a writer. You can contact her through her website, www.Heather-Davis.net.