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December 19, 2008 / allyo


I grew up in an unassuming post war ranch house with 3 small-ish bedrooms and an eat-in kitchen. It had a full basement though and when I was about 8 I think my grandparents refinished a full half of the basement. The new family room was so big and long that it was effectively two separate spaces, at one end was the huge console tv and the couch and the other had the fireplace and the built-in storage benches.

Until that time our one Christmas tree was an artificial one, set up in front of the big picture window in the front room, and it had colored lights, tinsel, and red and pink and silver bulbs. And apparently my grandma hated – it was my grandpa’s tree. So when we finished the basement she set up her own tree downstairs. The first year we had a live tree just for fun but after that we had our second artificial tree downstairs and it was a traditional tree. We strung it with cranberries and popcorn (well, the first year anyway although I think we did popcorn for a few years longer), and it had lots and lots of white lights and traditional ornaments. We even saved matchboxes all year long and made a couple dozen present ornaments, wrapped in christmas paper and tied up in ribbon and clipped to the tree branches with paperclips.

One year, tragically, our basement flooded and all the Christmas ornaments were lost. I think this was after my grandpa passed away because I remember we weren’t able to just run out and buy more, and we were comfortably off before his death. So we did the best we could and when out shopping for presents that year I scored the best space filler possible – a box of glass icicles. Even after the tree was once more bursting with ornaments, the icicles were a firmly established tradition (although we never did wrap a slew of matchboxes again) and after they eventually all broke off I was able to find plastic replacements. And so it went for almost two decades.

On my tree right are a mix of two later generations of icicles. There are opaque plastic remnants of my first set, and then the bright, glittery clear ones I found half off at Macy’s a few years ago. Our tree isn’t wanting for ornaments. When we bought this house 7 years ago my mom bought us an enormous artificial tree, in honor of our high ceilings. But circumference-wise it never worked and even though she apparently spent a lot of money on it (certainly more than she could afford) it had started to fall apart after just a few years’ use and it really ticked her off every time she saw it. Now it’s safely tucked away in the attic in case we ever have the room for it and instead we have a scrawny little thing we bought at T@rget last year, which fits perfectly but can barely hold our ornaments (it also lists to the side but what do you expect for $99?). That’s because when we first got the big tree it was almost empty and for years we bought each other an ornament for Christmas and asked for them as gifts and finally made it to the point where the big tree was fully loaded all the way around. So every needle on this little tree is full. There are ornaments on there from Jim’s childhood but even though none of mine survived the flood there are plenty from my side as well. And most of them were given to my by C. There are a few surviving musical instruments from high school, the horrifically pink, gaudy ones she gave me for a few years in my early college (most are in the back these days although I think I finally threw away some of the worst offenders last year), the classic Poohs from Lennox, and of course the ones she bought for Jamie. And there are a few surviving highly breakable ones from my grandma. A toy soldier and a santa. And the tiny little glass ones that catch the light so well – a harp, a tree, a reindeer and heart.

I’ve never been a part of the tree decorating at my dad’s, and I’m not represented on their branches. But my grandma and C more than made up for that. They’re gone, but I have our traditions here to hold me up.  Yesterday was  my grandma’s birthday and C’s is the 28. MD’s father’s birthday is next week and we are surrounded by ghosts this month. And there are some very real-life things that are hanging over us as well. But it is Christmas time and Jamie is 4 and life goes on. And I am off until Jan. 5th, save a half day stint on New Years’ Eve.  Our house is warm (and dry!) and I have high hopes for 2009. (C’mon 2009, don’t let us down!)

Oh, and it’s too bad I am so bad at establishing our own traditions. My sister gets us an advent calendar every year, and once again I forgot until the FIFTEENTH to start it. Jamie’s been in heaven getting 4 tiny little pieces of chocolate a night. He’s going to be very sad tomorrow when he only gets one.


One Comment

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  1. LittleWit / Dec 23 2008 10:19 am

    I would really like to make advent calendars a tradition in our household. One of these days I will be together enough in time to do that. 🙂

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