When I was a girl, the Christmas season elicited in me a pure unadulterated joy. I could think of no good reason why anyone would feel anything but. As I’ve grown older, though, a melancholy has crept into the Christmas season, with remembrances of loved ones that I’ve lost and seasons that are past.
This past Tuesday, I had the house to myself and I spent the morning decorating our tree. I was thankful that I was home and not working. I was grateful that I’ve had the extra time this year to savor the holiday preparations. I was joyfully anticipating our son’s homecoming next week.
I put on Christmas music and opened a box of decorations brought in from the garage. The first song that played was Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song” – one of my mother’s favorites. A flood of memories struck me. Being the only daughter, it was mom and I that worked on Christmas preparations together and it was a cherished tradition for us both. Even when I was away at college, she would wait until I got home to do the baking and decorating. I lost my mom five years ago, right before Christmas. I miss her.
Then I began unpacking the ornaments. We have a collection that were purchased at places we’ve visited (lovingly labeled with the date and place), or received from friends and family, or handmade by our son. The first ornament that I placed on the tree was the topper. This is a cardboard and foil star (held together with wire and scotch tape) that I made with my stepson the first Christmas I spent with my husband (then boyfriend). My husband had been a single dad for a few years and for various reasons the two of them had never bought a tree. I talked them into getting one, and then had to improvise since there weren’t any ornaments around. We quite cleverly punched a hole in the star to insert a tree light. Twenty-seven years later, I still think this is the most beautiful tree topper. Twelve years ago, we lost my stepson in an accident. I miss him.
After I married, my parents spent almost every Christmas with us. My mother loved coming to our house since she didn’t have to do any of the work. My father absolutely relished his grandson excitedly jumping on their bed early Christmas morning and then frolicking around the house like a kid with him and his toys. One Christmas my son played a duet at a Christmas piano recital with one of his little buddies, and the two got into an on-stage argument over timing. That episode quickly assumed a prominent place in comic family lore and my dad always delighted in having my son and I play piano duets at Christmas time. I pulled my parents’ Christmas stockings out of the box and hung them over the fireplace. Seven years ago I lost my dad, not long before Christmas. I miss him, too.
I unwrapped a few more ornaments from the box. One of my favorites is a little mitten that I embroidered while pregnant with my son. I didn’t know if I was having a girl or boy, and I waited until after he was born to embroider his name on the mitten. I then sifted through countless ornaments my son made while in pre-school, school and Sunday School. I loved every minute of those years with my young son and Christmas was hands down his favorite day of the year. He has since grown into an incredible young man whom I love with all my heart, but I miss my little boy. I miss that season of my life.
I am thankful for all the blessings that God has bestowed on me, past and present. Christmas is indeed a time for great joy. But I am also grateful for my melancholy Tuesday morning, alone with the tree and decorations. It proved to be an unexpected and profound time of spiritual reflection, remembrance and grief for those people and seasons that I loved.