Christmas decorating this year was a little different than usual. I was feeling a bit down because I had been out of commission for six weeks from my MS flare and was missing out on some activities that I have looked forward to all year. Las Posadas on the riverfront, singing in our church Christmas program, the homeschooling group field trips, my MOPS outings and even Black Friday shopping had all been canceled due to my limitations.
Watching my kids excitement at putting up the decorations really got me in the mood though. They gleefully and painstakingly rolled out all the strings of lights, plugged them in and exchanged burned out bulbs. They attached all 50+ branches on the tree and stayed up very late watching Hubby hang the lights up. Hanging the ornaments was icing on the cake for them.
They giggled with glee when they found the Veggie Tales ornament, argued over which colored ball to hang and awwww'd when they found their baby ornaments. Near the end, I heard 6yrRose say, “Do I really have to hang this hideous one?” 4yrJade agreed, “Yeah, it's hideous.” 9yrMatthew said, “Just hang it in the back.” Rose, pondering this for a moment said, “I don't want to hang this hideous one. Mom, do I have to hang this hideous bear?”
As I turned toward her, I noticed that hanging from her hand was an ornament given to me, I think, by Darlene and Grandpa. It is a cute bear making an ice sculpture of a snowman. But one of the bear's arms is missing and I assume that is the reason why it has been named “hideous bear”. I looked at the date on it: 1981. This ornament is almost 30 years old! My thoughts wandered to Christmas at Grandpas house. The crackling fireplace, the laughter of our family, the excitement of the season, the long drive there and the short drive home, listening to card games, begging Mom to stay “just a little bit longer”, the fluffy green sleeping bags of Grandpas, the play room upstairs that wasn't heated, Barbies, playing hide and seek and, of course, all the delicious food.
My eyes wandered down our tree to another ornament. A Klingon Bird of Prey. It was the first ornament I gave Hubby after we married in 1994 and again my thoughts drifted to the past. Our first arguments, the little apartment we started out in, my first office job, playing card games with friends, sharing our one older-than-dirt car for several years, our first house, the dreams we had about what life would be like down the road, staying up all night to play Myst through the New Year, going on a Canadian fishing trip with Hubby's family.
As I looked around, my eye caught Matthew's baby ornament, 2000. Motherhood was nothing like I had anticipated and those memories flooded back as well. Hyperemesis while I was pregnant, his exciting birth, moments of worry while they took him down the hall for oxygen. All the time I spent holding him for hours and hours, the frustration of trying to determine why he was crying “this” time, the joy of finding that he liked the exersaucer and I could actually put him down for a while. The seclusion I felt that first year after quitting my job and becoming a stay-at-home-mom. Joining La Leche League and gaining mommy friends. I grew a lot as a person that first year of motherhood.
As I looked at each of the kids baby ornaments, I was flooded with all their memories as well. Rose's long labor, my amazement at how easy an “easy baby” could be. I grimaced as I remembered when Rose dropped newborn Jade on the floor and it sounded like an egg cracking. The jaundice we fought with all of them, my MS diagnosis when Jade was 6 months old, dealing with gestational diabetes and gallbladder disease, worrying through 2yrLinnae's pregnancy that I wasn't on medication for MS and what if I had problems after she was born, and all of Linnae's ER trips (splitting her toe open, fever seizures and most recently, the allergic reaction to nuts).
My eyes had made their way down the tree and now focused on the empty tree skirt. It looks so bare without presents. I can still vividly remember Matthew's reaction the year he got his Veggie Tales Larry-Mobile. He screamed in delight, cried and ran out of the room in a dramatic flare. The same reaction was true for the Buzz Lightyear “armie-grabber” and the Bionicle Takanuva. My girls, on the other hand, haven't ever had that one item that they just HAD to have. They make a list and seem happy with whatever they get. I think they take after me.
Though Mom may recall differently, I can't remember ever focusing on one particular gift that I was hoping for under the tree. Sure there was always a new Amy Grant tape that I wanted but I never remember feeling disappointed that I didn't get that “one thing”. I do, however, remember many gifts that hold a special place in my heart. My stereo, guitar (though I think that was a birthday gift?), boombox, a little Styrofoam airplane that had “Phoenix” written on it, my K-9 figure, a beautiful sandcastle, necklaces with my name or initial on them, and a big brown stuffed bear.
But my most prized gift from childhood is definitely my
Sesame Street blanket.
Though it's threadbare in the most literal sense, it is still the perfect weight and feel that a blanket should be. I've tried many times to mimic similar blankets for my kids (and myself) and just can't make them feel as good as that one. Warm but not hot, smooth but not silky, functional but fun. I bring it out from time to time to show my kids but Sesame Street has changed so much since the 70's that it doesn't hold my kids attention in the slightest and they spend the time asking me the characters names instead of admiring this amazing thing my mom made for me. When I look at it, I think about how many long hours Mom must have spent during nap time at the day school working on each delicate stitch. How she must have worried like crazy that she wouldn't get all our blankets finished on time that year! I imagine her back hurting from being hunched over in those metal chairs, trying to see the lines under the soft nap time lights. It stirs something in me to put myself in her shoes. As a mom, it's easy now to imagine the effort she put into the blanket. But I wonder if she can put herself in my shoes. She can't possibly imagine how comforting that blanket was to me. It was always there. Always a reminder of how much she loved me. It was there when I was burning up with fever, there when I had my first heartbreak. It was there to make a tent over the heat register after playing in the snow and there to make forts and tunnels with our chairs. I wasn't “sick” until Mom brought my blanket to the couch and made me lie down. Even as a teenager, I still sought out that blanket when I was sick.
I'm surprised to find myself grateful that I've been forced to slow down this year and reflect on Christmas Past as my thoughts keep wandering down our tree...