I decorated our tree yesterday, something that I enjoy doing each year.  My husband had pulled all of the decorations out of the attic and brought them down a couple of days before.  When he did so he told me he was glad to have me decorate the tree as long as he got to put the topper on.  Our topper: Father Winter that we bought on a road trip to North Carolina a year or two ago.

So yesterday, in the quiet afternoon, I began to decorate.  Pulling out each ornament from the box, wrap, or bag that has kept it safe the past year I was transported backwards in time as memories of celebrations gone by came flooding back.  There was a white hat with pink feathers that was my daughter at about age 10 or 11; a penguin or ten that are my son.  Gingerbread girls, boys and bears made over the years documenting the growth of our family.  A wolf and her pups, an owl, and Curious George made their way to the branches.  Old fashioned glass candy canes and  Santa were next.  Memories of a time when life was lived in California and not on the east coast were joined by the more recent memories portrayed by bobble headed Yankees players that my husband owned.  Golf balls with faces and “Babies 1st Christmas” tell of life before we met also found their places on the tree. A bulb to find a cure for AIDS, one to end world hunger, sea shells glittered, and a tree skirt of red and green – all memories held close to my heart.

As I put the ornaments in their places I began to think of this ritual that I’ve done so many times.  With live trees, cut trees, fake trees, trees outside, and the most important one – the asparagus fern the year we had a “welfare Christmas”.  That’s what we called it because there was money only for one gift each; a small gift and nothing more. No tree at all. That year we decorated the house plants with the ornaments and it was enough.  Each year there seems to be something added, just like life itself each year brings new memories.  But the one year we had next to nothing I remember the best.  I remember it because it made me think about what it was that we were doing.  My entire family will tell you I’m not one for gift giving this time of year.  Christmas really isn’t my holiday and so I don’t give gifts then, at Yule I only give something small, usually an item that I found some time prior that jumped out and said “this person needs to have me.”  I’m sure my children would rather have had lots of things over the years, but I just don’t do it.  I show them in other ways I suppose, and they show me as well in return.

My son called and asked what our plans were for Christmas day.  I laughed when I answered that we had planned on a traditional Hudson Christmas: Chinese food and a movie.  He laughed as well; we had spent many a holiday together in that fashion, our own tradition.  My daughter and I discussed what we would both be doing and each of us has the same attitude; it doesn’t matter really if we get together or not.  We will be spending the solstice together and that is what counts to her and I.  We also agreed that my son should spend the day with his in-laws because it is a day of celebration for them; he needs to honor that.  And yet, none of the discussions took away the depth and meaning of my memories, our memories. 

Each ornament has found its place, each memory is cherished, all of it representing the many roads I and my family have travelled to get to this point in time.  I like my memories of Christmas’ past.  And a new one this year: my husband putting Father Winter one more time on the top of the tree in the evenings light.

So, regardless of what path you are on or what faith you follow, here’s to making many memories in the future of Yule fires with friends, egg nog with Cat Daddy, a gift or two for loved ones and all of us growing wiser together.

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