Memory Box

January 3, 2008

I took my tree down last night. It took me two hours.

Not because I have that much stuff up. But because every year, putting my ornaments on the tree and taking them down has become a ritual. A ritual of remembrance.

Before Fa was born, I didn’t put up a tree for years. The boxes of ornaments were stored in my Dad’s place, gathering dust and I ignored it like the plague. I didn’t want to open it.

For opening that box would bring back too much pain. Too much Mom.

It was filled with ornaments from Christmases past. Ornaments that my Mother adored and cherished and ornaments that filled her with joy.

I was afraid to go there.

I was afraid that seeing those ornaments again, up close, would sadden me. So, I left it alone. For years.

The Christmas before I got pregnant, Mom must have given me a sign that it was time to open the box. Thus, opening my heart to what was long gone. It took me months to do it. The preparation of “THE BOX” was weighing me down. But, for some reason, I was compelled to go through it.

My therapist talked me through step by step, from the initial ripping the tape off the top to taking out and unwrapping the last ornament. Finally it was time. The flood of emotions that ran through me were staggering.

Joy for seeing the favorites from years past. Sadness from remembering how we’d put up our tree together and now I was alone. Bittersweet for seeing Mom’s most favorite ornaments still in tact and wrapped in newspaper from 1989, and waiting for me to share them again. Anger once again, for the fact that she was taken from me.

But I did it. I faced my fears head on and sorted through “The Box”. I can’t believe how perfect the ornaments stayed through all of these years. I can’t believe that the yellowing of the newspaper hasn’t taken away from the headlines of the times.

I’m so happy that I was strong enough to do that. I didn’t know it back then but it prepared me for this particular year.

The first few Christmases with Fa were all my own with the tree. It was me and the tree taking the time to remember each ornament’s significance. It became a walk down memory lane. A walk I took alone while I preserved the sensation.

This year was the first year that Fa truly understood the meaning of the tree and it’s decor. She helped me put it up and decorate it from top to bottom. She was careful with the ‘breakables’ and was thoroughly excited to see the tree take shape.

I told her about my Mother’s (her grandmother’s) most favorite ornaments and how they were sentimental to her.

Mom’s Favorites
(These two birds were her most favorite!)

I told her about how we did it when I was a little girl.

I am so grateful that I will have this opportunity with my own daughter. An opportunity I might have missed if I wasn’t strong enough to open that box.

It was wonderful.

So this year, when I took all the ornaments off the tree, I took a little extra time to examine them and remember their past. I took longer to wrap them in the same newspaper from years past and I meditated over their worth and emotional value.

It made me smile. To know that I have these items in my life. Little pieces of the past to take out every year to reminisce about my Mom.

I have since purchased more ornaments to add to the collection and Fa even makes her own now…These are fantastic additions that I know my Mom would be proud of.

I hope that I can continue this tradition of opening the box with Fa for years to come. My dream is that one day, she will share the same box with her children and speak of her grandmother the way I have taught her.

This year was a good reminder of how precious life and family is. The ornaments are truly the only tangible thing I have left of my mother and I am honored to hold them close.

Next year, I think I’ll take three hours to take the ornaments down. The longer I have with the memories, the better.



  1. It sounds like putting up your tree this year was a very sentimental experience. I have no doubt that Fa will continue that tradition when she gets older!

  2. gasp … you have me in tear woman! How beautiful. You sounds so strong right now with your memories to arm you for the days ahead.

    Often people feel pity for me that I grew up without a mom, however I think your loss must be deeper for you knew what it was like to have a Mom.

    Fa is sure lucky, cause you are one helluva mom!

  3. err you did not *tear* me you had me in TEARS darn fingers 😛

  4. i am sure i have said it before, you are one brave LADY !!! I admire your courage and honesty.Your kid will be super prould of you

  5. My mother has similar bird ornaments that she really likes a lot.

    I love putting up the tree and doing the reminiscing, but taking it down makes me too depressed that Christmas is over. In fact, this year, my wife took down the whole thing.

  6. Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories.

  7. Beautiful post.

  8. Merry Christmas. I’m glad you enjoyed all of your Christmas.

    It’s amazing how our kids can help us to heal, isn’t it?

  9. I am sure your mother is proud of you for resuming your Christmas decorations, taking so much time and pride with it, and for sharing the meaning of the various ornaments with Fa.

    Well done.

  10. That’s wonderful. Good for you!

  11. What an incredible time for you and your mom to have “together” and now Fa. I thank God for those perfect memories, those moments, those items that remind us of our loved ones and for a short period of time take some of the pain away.

  12. Such a great post, JJ! What a great way to share your Mom with Fa and such a great memory for you to carry with you.

  13. what a beautiful way to remember your mother and teach your daughter.

    bravo, hon. you did good.

  14. Such a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. I know that was hard for you but I’m so proud at how graceful you are handling your sad feelings. And to turn it into a happy tradition with Fa is a great way to heal.

  16. What an amazing tradition to start/share with your daughter. She is getting to know her grandmother through you, and it seems to be part of the healing process for you as well. Definitely take more time next year……and enjoy making memories of your own 🙂

  17. What a great story. I have several boxes that Burfica and I have gone throgh of my mom’s and I picked to keep. I just haven’t been able to open the boxes and go through them again since I got them but the time is coming for that. I just don’t think I can do it with her 2 year passing aniversary looming just a week and a half away.

    Thank you for sharing.

  18. A lovely story and one that makes me happy for you to cross a road without a path and finding joy on the other side as you pick out a path. I think I shall have much more of a difficult time when I must face my mother’s possessions when she is gone. I continually question what day or month, or could it be another year? Regardless, to pack those personal items away will be hard, but as I packed my Christmas decorations, etc. this year I realized there is so much of Momma in those boxes I question if I can open them next year if………….

    Thank you for writing your experience.

  19. You make me cry. And smile. And cry.

    Do me a favor. Print this out and share it with Fa each year as you decorate the tree. OK?

  20. […] endquotes: Came across this post and found it really lovely. I know I should take down my little pink tree but it’s so dark […]

  21. That’s really sweet. In a good way. I agree with Margaret, print this and share with Fa each year.

  22. That was beautiful and touching. Thanks so much for sharing that with us.

  23. Must be a chick thing. I don’t get the Xmas tree thing at all.

    Sorry. I don’t.

    (A course, I was raised by wolves).

  24. This post is one that, again, I can really relate to. And remember how I mentioned before that the more I read you, the more I find that we are very similar? My jaw dropped when I saw the picture of your mom’s favourite ornaments. My mom had very, very similar ornaments — they were silver and red and they had been her grandmother’s. I used to love them — I’d pick them carefully from the tree and rub their soft tails on my cheeks. They’re gone now, broken, but seeing that picture brought the memories of them flooding back to me.

    Happy New Year, Janet. Thank you for this post, for all that you share.

  25. Great post, Sweetie. I know what you mean.

    Happy New Year.

  26. i love the honesty in your writing janet that is what I admire so much about you friend.although I cannot know all that you must feel I can love you through all that you feel. Un beso, Mamacita

  27. I got tears in my eyes just reading this. Congratulations to you for being able to do it and share it with Fa. I’m so sorry for your loss and your pain.
    You have an amazing ability to write honestly and purely. It’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  28. I am glad you have those momentos…those will always be special and someday you will be able to pass them along to Fa too…congrats for being so strong and such a good role model for Fa.

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