The glowing tree sits in the window; its graceful, bare branches wait to be dressed. Classic Christmas recordings play in the background, weaving a magical reverie. I carefully lift the lid off of a large plastic container. Adorable beaming faces, centered in handmade ornaments and frozen in time, peer back at me. An immediate smile touches my mouth, a rush of warmth washes through my chest. My fingers stroke their pictured cheeks as I remember their real life, baby softness. The images of my three children were taken 15 to 25 years ago. I cherish each unpacked memory and carefully hang them on the pre-lit tree.
Next come the antique ornaments that belonged to my maternal grandparents, who passed away when I was only eight. The 1940s- and 1950s-era, delicately painted balls, angels and other holiday figures had adorned their tree for decades. It feels right to mingle these decorations with the handmade ornaments and pictures of the kids, as they all represent branches of a family tree that may not have overlapped in the time and space limitations of this world but nestle closely in my remembrance.
Once I have the decorations on the tree, I snap some pictures and send a few of them in a group text to the kids. They are all grown and gone now, with one living in New York and the others one to two hours away by car. Thankfully, the distance is only physical. We talk frequently and see one another as often as possible. The kids respond to the text with appreciation and banter.
Throughout years of Christmas decorating, I’ve discovered that sweet memories get sweeter with time, and that my gratitude for every blessing deepens.
I now sit sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, the room’s overhead light turned off so the tree’s glow illuminates the cherub faces and casts a sentimental spell across the room. I reminisce that when a child, I would awaken in the middle of the night during Christmastime, tiptoe silently to the dark living room, plug in the Christmas lights and lie under the tree, gazing up through the lit branches and at the points of phantom light reflected on the window.
I take another sip of wine, noting its peppery and fruity bouquet. A recording of Tony Bennett singing “For Once in my Life” plays; the earnest song’s strains and strings tug at my contemplative heart.
Where are you, dear one?
You are here with me, though you are far away.
I hear your laughter’s music and feel the softness of your face.
You are forever with me, held in my heart’s warm embrace.