For over 30 years, I've my decorated my surroundings with the same decorations. While some have evolved with time, a few remain from my initial Christmas as a young wife and mother. Others found their way into my life during different milestones, like my second marriage and the arrival of my daughter. As I arrange them in my home today, I realize that I wouldn't necessarily choose many of them again. My style has shifted significantly since my 20s. So, why, you might wonder, do they persist in decorating my home?
My very first tree as a divorced single mom was crafted with bows, as funds were scarce for actual decorations—dollar stores weren't a thing back then! I managed to buy four types of ribbon and some pipe cleaners, crafting about 50 bows for our tree in our cozy one-bedroom basement apartment in Toronto. It was a modest space; my son and I shared a room. Yet, it symbolized my first stride toward independence, brimming with love and friendship. Although the pull-out blue foam couch from Ikea and the twin beds are long gone, the Santa wreath that strained my budget still graces my door each year.
This year, the musical lights I bought for that very first tree finally gave in!
My son's stocking, a gift from his birth, still hangs on my fireplace, eagerly awaiting Santa. Unable to afford an angel, a beautiful metal star crowned our tree, now transformed into a cherished decoration in our home. Tonight, as we deck the halls, his Aladdin ornament, a steadfast presence for 33 years, will once again adorn the tree.
For 8 years, it was him and me against the world. When I unpack those Christmas decorations, I'm transported to that first apartment, reliving the moments when little hands eagerly helped me trim the tree and decorate our home.
Through the ensuing 8 years and several moves, those decorations faithfully followed us. Even if a new place didn't feel like home initially, it did once those familiar decorations dressed up the space. I eventually could afford an angel, and ornaments began to replace the bows. My fingers were grateful; twisting those pipe cleaners onto the tree could be quite a messy endeavor!
By the time my husband moved in, we had amassed a significant collection of decorations. His contributions melded with mine, and together we crafted our own traditions. A new angel graced the tree, better matching our decor. There's a musical merry-go-round that broke 16 years ago—hold your tongue just right, and it still turns and plays music. Yet, we faithfully box it up every year, alongside all the other decorations. Why? If it were anything else, it might have been discarded, but this broken merry-go-round carries the weight of cherished memories. Could we afford a replacement now? Certainly. But you can't buy memories.
As we decorate the tree with ornaments acquired together over the years, those decorations mostly tell the story of our first home. I haven't added much since then. They encapsulate the memories of us embarking on this new life together, melding my son's and my established traditions with my husband's introduction into our family. They represent transitional years, certainly, but, once again, happy memories of a home filled with friends, family, joy, and laughter.
Blessed with another child 19 years ago, not many new decorations have entered the house since her arrival. Her special stocking, a new Nativity, crafts she made, and ornaments purchased for her signify her entry into a world of already established traditions, much like her father's. Watching her set up the Manger and arrange decorations, I realized how crucial these decorations were to her. Unpacking them, she paused intermittently, reflecting on her own memories associated with each item. The 30-year-old beaded garland, bought for that very first tree, became a shared touchstone, infused with her own special Christmas memories.
I consider myself fortunate—I get to touch and feel that garland, experiencing the memories of both my children playing with it, and treating it like precious jewels. The memories of attempting to put it on the tree by myself, the frustrations of husband and wife trying to place the darn garland—amazing what one touch of beaded garland can do!
Then there's the Christmas village. I never desired one, but my mother started making one later in life. After her passing, I hesitated but accepted it, recognizing its significance for my children's memories of their Gramma. So, the village goes up, not because I love it, but because I love how it makes my kids feel, and truth be told, I miss her!
As I stow away the empty boxes in the basement, I realize that these decorations, lingering for years, have woven completely different memories in the hands of everyone who touched them. I may never achieve a perfectly decorated Christmas home—some decorations are downright tacky! But each one carries a memory, filling my heart and my family's hearts with joy.
My wish is for you to find joy in the simplest ways. I know it isn't always easy, but it's there if you look hard enough.
My daughter is a songwriter and wrote a song about our wacky tacky Christmas called Kind of Christmas, Enjoy!!