A little Christmas cheer one year later

I broke one of my cardinal rules today and played Christmas music before Thanksgiving. But I needed the music because I was going to decorate a Christmas tree. My mom’s little Christmas tree to be exact.  The little tree traveled with us to Mom’s assisted living apartment, and then later I packed it up and moved it home with me where it has remained boxed up in the basement until today. I look forward to the year I can put it up without tears again. This post is copied from my one last year about Mom’s Christmas tree.

November 27, 2012

I spent most of the day at my parents’ yesterday. Holidays are so hard for people who are suffering in some way. I woke up thinking that I needed to hang the strand of blinking red bell lights along Mom’s living room mantle. My sister Annie loved watching the red blinking lights, and because of that my mother loved them too. Or because Mom loved them, Annie did. We never were quite sure which way that actually went. We hung the bells up the first two Christmases after Annie was gone, but I think it was too much trouble for Mom to do last year.

Armed with blank Christmas cards and a package of peppermints, I left for my parents house mid-morning. Life has been so hard for Mom over the past months, years really, that she is worn out and doesn’t want to do one thing extra. I suspected if I asked her if she wanted me to get out her Christmas decorations she would say “No.” So I didn’t ask. I went for the bells.

I went down the hall and into Annie’s room where Mom keeps the Christmas decorations in the large closet.

While I was looking for the bells, I found a wreath. I took it out and hung it on the front door.

“I usually put the wreath my sister gave me on the front door,” Mom said from her chair near the far corner of the living room where she sat and ate her toast and drank her tea. “It’s on the glass porch.” I moved the wreath I’d hung to the back door and went out on the porch for the wreath my aunt had made.

I decided we needed Christmas music so I sorted through their collection of vinyl albums for the Christmas ones and selected one I remembered from my youth, the album cover completely torn through on one side.

“I don’t want to get the tree out today,” Mom said as I worked.

In one box I found a Santa and Mrs. Claus that a good friend of hers had made years ago. I set them together on top of the china cabinet.

Back and forth to Annie’s room I went bringing out decorations one or two at a time.

I put the snowman and woman on the window sill beside the card table, Dad’s “office,” where he sits and “works” or plays ball with a family member or a home health aide.

I found a centerpiece for Mom’s coffee table, four miniature nutcrackers for the kitchen window sill, and a snow globe that I think Dad might enjoy.

At the bottom of a big box, in a bag, I found the red bells that Annie loved.

I hung them along the mantle, securing them with tape. Then I cleared the nick nacks off the mantle and set out the manger scene that used to be my grandmother’s.

Christmas carols playing in the background, I stood still for a minute and looked around the room. Mom used to put a small tree on a table in front of the picture window in the living room, but Dad sits there now and the table is full of pencils, blocks of wood, books, cups of coins, and other things we use to try to entertain or occupy him.

“You know, you could put the little tree on that table beside you, Mom,” I said. “It wouldn’t have to be in front of the window.”

“I could put it on that table,” Mom said and pointed across the room to the end table beside the lift recliner that we got for Dad, but that he rarely sits in anymore. It is simply too hard to get him in it, and he slides out of position if he sits there too long.

I shifted the recliner away from the sofa and moved the small table between the two so that it would be closer to the electrical outlet. Then I got the little white tree from a box on the shelf in Annie’s closet, and I set it up on the table.

“I don’t want to do the ornaments today,” Mom said.

I went back into Annie’s old bedroom and found a crocheted tree skirt.

“My sister made that for me, too” Mom said.

I arranged the skirt around the bottom and plugged the tree in. It’s tiny colored lights added a warm glow to the room.

Annie’s blinking bells strung along the mantle lent a cheerful twinkle to the room.

I left the ornaments in the three small boxes on the bed in Annie’s room.

Mom can decorate the tree later.

Christmas 2013


24 thoughts on “A little Christmas cheer one year later”

  1. Hi Christine .. a difficult time still – but such a lovely tree … it’s very pretty. Christmas music is lovely though .. enjoy just peacefully listening and remembering all the good things … with thoughts – Hilary

    1. It is a pretty little tree, isn’t it. Not at all what I would have picked out, but then my mom and I had quite different tastes. I’ve started appreciating hers more now than ever.

  2. Memories can either make us more morose, or infuse us with the love of what was, and what will always be. I hope your memories lift you up this holiday season. Your story is memorable. I think mostly because of how you surrounded your parents with love.

    1. I understand what you’re saying about memories, but I think they make me feel love. It still feels sad, but not what I would call morose. I’m trying not to place too many expectations on myself and my feelings this holiday season. Or, in other words, I intend to allow myself to feel sad when I need to. A lot of things happened last December and January. I’m not going to try to bury any of it.

  3. What a beautiful scene. Some day there will all be wonderful memories rather than heart ache. When my dad passed away years ago at a way too young age, I couldn’t look a photos of him for several years without totally breaking down. Now, I look at them with joy and remember all of the wonderful times.

    1. I hope you realize that comments like that from people who have experienced loss and gotten past it mean the world to me in the hope they bring. Thank you.

  4. Your life is so rich with memories and connections dear Christine. That’s what struck me reading this, like a thread of hope and peace running through the grief you feel. There has been so much life in your life. I want to tell you how precious that is and I know that you know. Here’s a gentle hug for you

  5. Boy, does that bring back memories. I was lucky enough to spend 2 Christmas’ helping your mom pack that little tree up and put it back in Annie’s closet. It looks beautiful in front of your window too. I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving and Very Merry Christmas full of wonderful memories.

    1. I’ll bet it does bring back memories. I remember that when I met first met you, I think you may have been putting the Christmas decorations away. I can’t remember when you started. I just remember Mom needed a little time to warm up to you taking care of Dad. So she had you organizing and putting things away. She needed help with that too. Boy was she a tough nut to crack. You gave them a lot and earned a special place in both of their hearts. I’ll never forget.

    1. You’re very wise, William. You will get through the holiday. I’m going to allow myself to feel sad if I feel sad. I’m going to try to find moments of quiet peace and tranquility, and think about the celebration in a new and different way this year. Thinking of you.

  6. Time is a great healer, and this year we too struggle with remembering Christmases past with my husband’s brother and his wife. His brother died a year ago this month. They were close growing up and as adults, and the hurt is still there. I understand clearly the emotion revealed in your post. Thinking of you as you begin the journey to Christmas again this year.


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