Last night, we had the opportunity to have dinner with our now married daughter and her husband at their new home. This is Rebecca and Anthony’s first Christmas living together and the first time they decorated their own Christmas tree. I stood for several minutes and looked at the ornaments from their combined childhoods and thought about all the years we’ve collected ornaments for our girls. It felt odd to see Rebecca’s ornaments on a tree other than our family tree, but it was a beautiful, comforting feeling to know that a big part of her childhood hangs on the tree in her new home. We are still tethered together by tradition even when miles apart.
The Advent/Christmas season always makes me nostalgic, and that is especially true this year. After this year, I have no idea what our Christmas festivities will resemble. I like to think that nothing will change, that we will celebrate with our family as always, but I know that, if not this year, then in the very near future, things are bound to change. As my children grow older and closer to beginning their own lives as adults, I can’t help but wonder which of our family traditions will hold the most meanings for them (oh, how I relate to Fiddler’s Tevye and his fight to keep his family traditions alive as his children become adults). I grew up in a home and with a family where tradition was everything, and I’ve done my best to instill a love for tradition in my own children. One such tradition involves our Christmas tree, our hideous, gaudy, wonderful, glorious Christmas tree.
I once had a family member tell me outright that our tree is ugly. Sure, I know what it looks like to outsiders, but to me, there is no tree more beautiful. Among the dozens and dozens of ornaments that adorn the tree are the wooden Raggedy Ann that was my very first ornament, a pinecone that Rebecca painted in pre-K as a gift for me, Katie’s buffalo representing the first time she saw her favorite animal live and in the wild, and the ballerina from when Morgan thought that dance class was all that mattered in the world. Clustered amid the branches, drama masks, an altar server, three field hockey players, a tennis racket, a swimmer, a piano, an archery target, and a clarinet are joined by other such ornaments too numerous to count. Alongside those are many handmade ornaments and an ornament from almost every place we’ve ever visited.
When Ken and I got married and moved into our first home, our Christmas tree was already decorated with twenty-two years of ornaments. There were a bird in a nest from my Godparents, a circus train, Raggedy Ann, and many others. Every year, my brothers and I received new ornaments that represented that year in our lives. Those precious pieces of memorabilia now share our trees with our children’s little pieces of nostalgia. Each Christmas season, I hunt for the perfect ornaments, the ones that the girls will pull out years from now and say, “I remember that year.”
This year, after the girls had placed their newest ornaments on the tree (a Flamenco dancer in La Plaza de Madrid for Bec, a snorkel and goggles for Katie, and a football for Morgan), we stood back and looked at the tree.
“I’m not doing this when I have my own house,” Morgan proclaimed.
“What do you mean?” came the question I had to push up from my throat.
“I’m going to have a beautiful tree decorated with Christmas balls and ribbons and only white lights,” she replied.
“What about our family tradition? Won’t your children get a special ornament every year?”
“If they want. They can hang them on their own trees in their bedrooms.”
A little piece of me broke inside. But that’s okay. When Morgan’s children come to my house, they can help me decorate my tree. I’ll have a special ornament waiting for each of them.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.