I undecorated the Christmas tree this afternoon and felt sad. I’m usually something of a humbug – I find the holiday season mostly stressful and am totally over it and ready to kick the tree to the curb by December 26, but this year was different. It really felt this year like Christmas came and went too quickly, and I wasn’t in any hurry to take the tree down, but alas, it was mostly dead and dropping needles everywhere. I can’t tell you why this year felt different, because I don’t know myself. Maybe I’m going soft in my old age.
I spent a week baking up a storm, and then gave boxes of treats away to neighbors. I got all my shopping done with little fuss, and didn’t mind being up late wrapping after the kids went to bed. Even the Elf was good for some laughs! The hustle and bustle seemed cheerful instead of stressful. And Christmas day . . . being awakened in the cold, barely light morning, the kids all wound up with anticipation, the sea of wrapping paper that grew in the living room as the kids tore open their gifts . . . and the food: gooey cinnamon rolls, sausage, and eggs for breakfast, and steak and fondue for dinner – all of us gathered around the table together, loud and rowdy.
Our tree is decorated each year with a hodgepodge of ornaments – some store-bought, some handmade. As I took them off the tree today and wrapped them in tissue paper and packed them away, memories of Christmases past filled me with nostalgia. There are plaster ornaments that I painstakingly painted way before I ever had kids, filled with hope and visions of future Christmases that would include children scampering about. There are numerous “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments from the kids’ first Christmases, and ornaments with their names and later dates marked on them from subsequent Christmases. So many of the ornaments hold particular memories – if not of that specific Christmas, then memorable events from that particular year – like bookmarks in the past. A slideshow of images parades through my head: chubby hands . . . round cheeks . . . warm fuzzy jammies and a sleep-creased face . . . eyes lighting up over a Brio train . . . early mornings watching Bob the Builder . . . soft, damp curls glowing by nightlight as I reach into the crib.
And that’s the thing, I guess – when you’re in the moment, it’s hard to fathom how precious the memory of it will one day be. I think the older my kids get, the more sentimental I become over my memories of their childhoods. I look back with my mind’s eye and want to hold all those moments in my heart forever, vivid and cherished. It’s all so fleeting, gone in an instant.