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.
(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.