As I mentioned yesterday, we were a little behind in taking down our Christmas decorations this year.
Though I tend to dread taking the ornaments off of the tree, dealing with the silly, stubborn metal hooks, and sliding the puzzle-piece smaller boxes around so that they fit in the big plastic tub we keep the decorations in, the truth is that I always enjoy the process once it’s underway.
Like so many other folks’ Christmas trees, ours is basically held together with memories.
And I’m only being somewhat metaphorical. Seven Christmases ago, we paid a measly fifteen bucks for the cheapest artificial tree we could find, not expecting it to last us past our short tenure in Texas. It’s pretty frail and sparse at this point, but nothing that can’t be patched together with a few memories.
For example, J’s grandmother has handmade him an ornament every year since he was a little boy (and one for me, too, for nearly the last decade). These red-and-green yarn creations squeeze into nearly ever crevice we have available and remind us of the hours of labor and love that went into them.
The year we got married, we were given a set of twelve traditional German ornaments that symbolize the blessings wished upon our new life together. From a teapot to a rabbit to a cornucopia, we’ve been symbolically blessed many times over. At this point, I’m not sure what each of them represents, but I have a guess that the rabbit means fecundity.
My mom decided a few years ago–maybe the year we married, I’m not sure–that she wasn’t going to put up a tree any more, so she boxed up all of my childhood ornaments to pass on. (She has since rescinded and usually puts up her own tree, but I’ve still got the ornaments.) These include popsicle stick creations, a strange metal-netting-and-pipe-cleaner angel, and a neon “E” sprinkled with glitter from 1986.
And she also gave me an entire box of angels.
I’ve written elsewhere about my grandmother’s tradition of giving me an angel ornament every year for Christmas before she passed away from colon cancer, and about J occasionally continuing the tradition. My mom has also taken up the mantle and even this year, more than ten years since Ginny passed, I unwrapped a new angel.
These were my thoughts as we slowly undecorated the tree and packed up the creche last week.
As I took each angel off of the tree, wrapping the fragile ceramic and glass carefully, tossing the metal-and-piper-cleaner one carelessly, I remembered not how important things are, but how important traditions can be in shaping who we are.
How important people are.
How important remembering is.
Somehow I don’t find myself having those sorts of epiphanies when, during the hustle and bustle, we try to tear down the Christmas decorations before New Year’s.
Rather, it’s when we’re patient and deliberate and quiet that even ugly preschool ornaments can present us with epiphanies in the ordinary.