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Memory Tree

How do you decorte your Christmas tree? Some do designer level decorating, all gorgeous and color coordinated. Others do theme trees, and they make you go WOW!

I know you know that’s not me. I appreciate a gorgeous tree, but the one I do is not perhaps gorgeous to anyone else. It doesnt have the same meaning for them though….

Because I have a memory tree.

First, a side bar. Be careful about your attitude when ecorating with your kiddos. It always made me anxious when the Princeling was younger– 5 ornaments clumped together? This whole section bare? He is 14 now and wants nothing to do with decorating the tree. Was it me, or was it being 14 and a boy and all the other stuff?

So I had Pops, 94, sitting next to the tree and was showing and talking and having fun while the boy child was xboxing. (NOTE: WE DID NOT BREAK QUARANTINE. WE LIVE TOGETHER. )

And we talked about all the decorations. Some are mine from being a teen, bought either by my mom or my sister. Theyve been mine for years. And there are 3 family ones, from before i was born, bought in Trinadad when Dad was stationed there.

A cable car from a trip to San Francisco with Regina. A modern, weird Mickey one from our second trip to Disney- one ear broken off during the flight home. A metal version, with jingle bells, that one of my besties bought me because mine broke. A star fish from Monterey, an abolone from Fort Bragg. And one and on and on. Small little beaded ornaments handmade by (the boychilds daycare/other mother) Miss Dawns Grandma, both of whom have since passed.

I have a memory tree.

And it is gorgeous.

What about your tree?

Holiday Conversation Starter

So I’m working on a special treat for my Christmas cards, wanting to “up my game.” It involves Christmas traditions that I love, memories of the holiday and of course my secret talents. Others have wonderful themes that make my eyes turn green with their creativity (I’m looking at you, Drea!).

So i started asking people two questions. 1. What is your favorite Holiday tradition, both from when you were a kid and now. And 2. What was your favorite present as a child at Christmas? These questions work across generations, too.

And it brings you closer to your family. Because in this time of Corona, there might not be a lot under the tree. We can always give of ourselves, tho. The gift of listening. Maybe a secret talent. Maybe just being a voice on the phone.

During World War II, Dad returned home at Christmas time. He brought his mom and sister a roll of… tinfoil like tape. It was used to jam radar devices while flying. My Auntie Mary told me the story, about how he brought it home and they used it to decprate the tree. They were poor– a poor we can’t imagine now. But that tape…. that tinfoil tape made her holiday.

Do yourself a favor and ask questions. Make up your own, or use mine. But ask. Find out about life in the family before you were born. It is the best gift you can give yourself. I have very few stories of my mom’s childhood, because she died when I was 24. Before I knew I needed those stories.

The holidays will be different. But that doesn’t mean they have to be horrible. Wrap yourself in your family’s stories, write them down and savor them. Who knows, Next year, you can turn those answers into a game of trivial pursuit!

Christmas

Its a little early, but I love me some Christmas, especially when I am a little down. 2020… well, its been a year. I wrote this for a group I’m in.

Way back when…

Santa loves me… he always brings me the bestest Christmas Stocking (that’s a lie.. I know it’s Mom—I believe in the magic of being Santa but not one person.. I have known since I was tiny, when Christmas was on a Sunday and Miss Teacher brought in a birthday cake and we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus).

Mom’s stockings rocked. They were…. They were LOVE. She knew me, she got me. It was a mix of silly and sublime, books and toys and hair pretties… even as I grew older. The stockings were designed for each person, thought and care put into each one. And a grand design—what would occupy us until everyone was up on Christmas morning so we could do the family thing.

One year, as a teeney bopper, I thoroughly ruined my own Christmas. I love hints, but I never want to actually know what I’m getting. Why? Because one year all I wanted were some gherkin (????) Boots. Thunk low heeled ankle boot, totally 80’s. She would not tell me, not a clue nothing. Then I told her “I hope you got the x style and not y, because you know I hate y.” she responded with “Of course I bought you x!….. oohhhhhh….. you……!” I got them early. I also got my stocking early—10 or 11pm, she said “Don’t open till Christmas!” I was a good girl—I toed the line. I stayed up watching “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and opened up the stocking at 12:01 am. I loved it. That satisfaction lasted mee until…. I woke up in the morning with no excitement. No expectation. I already had the present I wanted and the stocking. I never did it again.

Too few years passed, I stayed at home while going to college…

And then she died.

I was 24, still at home, going to school. But Dad stepped up, stepped out and made me a stocking so amazeballs that I cried. I didn’t think I would get one. He loved me. He got me. I can still remember the porcelain doll peeking out of the top of the stocking, the Meatloaf CD tucked inside, they Tylenol with the gift card addressed to Daddys little headache. Oh my gosh, the TAGS that man created!

But then Dad remarried and she had her own grown children and grandkids as a priority. I was still at home until I graduated, but… I left soon after. The last time I went home for Christmas ,, her daughter got diamond earrings in her stocking and I got perfume that was someone elses favorite. That I was allergic to. That shit show ended when her daughter told me, in my mothers kitchen, that I was the redheaded stepchild.

I didn’t celebrate on Christmas morning with my Dad until I moved back in with him. And the stocking and christmas love was back. Because its not about the money, its about someone who gets you. Who turns up and shows their love. A well thought out Dollar store stocking means more than diamond earrings. Because it was never about the earrings— I cant wear them. I don’t wear much jewelry, although I love necklaces and hang them on my wall.

On Mothers day, a few years ago, my son found my dad on the ground unable to use his legs. Massive stroke. He recovered, but his driving and shopping days were over. I bought every damn present under the tree, and in the stockings. It took all the… wow, the anticipation, out of Christmas.

The next year, I signed up for the Santa Exchange in the Chatting group. I finally had something under the tree that I didn’t know what it was. I put that Priority Mail box under the tree and it drove my family nuts. I didn’t shake, didn’t peek, nothing. I kept it until it was the last gift to be opened. My delight in the presents was… it was wonderful.

Since then, I keep the tradition of keeping that gift for last. I broke down in Walmart one year, just sobbing “I want my mommy”. My best friend stayed with me in the candle aisle until the storm passed and she asked me what was going on. So I dumped it all on her—and it amazed me that someone who had a close knit family, whose parents were still alive, felt the same way. For the past 2 years, we take our boys to Walmart and they have whatever we can budget and I take her kid shopping and she takes mine. (I’M SORRY 20202 IS MY FAULT BECAUSE I WANTED AND GOT A SUITCASE FOR OUR TRAVELLING WWAAAHHHHH!!!!!!) However, my kid gets me. And she reigns him in to a certain extent. Just like I do with hers.

Still, that Chatting gift stays under the tree until everything else is opened. Everyone wants to know what’s in that box.

I want to make the anticipation last…..

Santa Mom

I felt my mom close to me this weekend, as if she were with me while I shopped. She was there as I found the special soup spoons she used when we were sick, and the babmoo grippers thingees that she used to pull toast out when it got stuck in the toaster. She was there with me in a tractor supply store (don’t ask), as I started bawling.

I started bawling, the first time, because of a day planner. The year my mom died, she kept a day planner, and used the spaces for days of the week as a sort of journal. The comings and goings of us kids, all grown, and her little trips with dad… all in the little journal. Some weeks were full to the brim. Some only had a few filled out.

Then she died.

I couldn’t look at that blank planner, so I started filling it in for her. Comings and goings, a little glimpse into life right after she died. It was 20 or so years ago, but I still remember that journal. I think I still have it somewhere. But I know it. I know the cover, i know the feel of it, and I know what it looked like on the inside.

And in the tractor supply store, right with all the calendars… was a copy of that same damn planner, only for 2017. Same. Damn. One.

I bought it. I will put it into my stocking, and I will write in it. Buying it means that I now have 2 but one will be for my writing and one will be for my adventures in mommyhood.with my boy.

And then Walmart happened.

In talking with a friend, I told her I don’t know why I’m so emotional today. I don’t know why this is happening, but…

But I’m tired of being the one to do for everyone. I do stockings for everyone in the house, because Mom did. Because to me, that stocking shows time and attention and love. Dad used to do mine, and help with his current wife’s stocking… but since the stroke (and maybe a little before), it hasn’t happened.

I know every single present that is currently under the tree.

Even mine.

And it sucks. Because my son would love to do it for me. And wanted to. But I didn’t think to think outside the little house. But next year, next year… I have 2 different people who have said that they will take him out shopping for me, and help him do my stocking too.

Friends and family are a blessing. But sometimes, you have to stop being so strong and powering through… at least enough to ask for help.

I fell Mom close to me right now. Not just because of the stuff, but because of people willing to come together and help out.

Love you guys.

If you know someone who is a single parent, if the child is old enough, offer to take them shopping for their parent. Both the child and the single parent will appreciate it. Being strong and keeping it together, especially under the pressure of making the perfect holiday is tough.