Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Importance of a Christmas Tree

I wrote this piece after putting up our tree last year. It will be published in the Progress Bulletin, December 25th edition.

In 2012, our family returned to the tradition of having a Christmas tree after a 2 year hiatus. In 2010, I was recuperating from surgery for breast cancer, and we were anxiously waiting to hear when a series of radiation treatments were going to be scheduled. Coping with putting up a tree, and then taking it down a couple of weeks later, just seemed like too much to deal with. In 2011, I was recuperating from shoulder surgery. At the same time, my husband had just gone through emergency surgery on his knee, his third surgery on the same knee in six months. Again, putting up a tree just seemed like too much to deal with. 
In 2012, it was time to take back this Christmas tradition. Our neighbour generously offers us a tree every year, so we rode out on our 4 wheeler, cut down a tree and brought it back to the house.
Then came the best part....taking out the Christmas Tree Box. This is what I missed for two years...pulling out the decorations one by one and taking myself back in time.
It was 1985, the first Christmas for my husband and I to be away from "home" in Alberta, far away from our friends and family in Ontario. I received decorations in the mail from two of my school friends. A brass reindeer, wooden rocking horse, and wooden tree with red painted hearts, all remind me of my school friendships. One of those friends has disappeared over time, but another still stays in touch even though she is now living far away in Australia.
It was 1989, my first Christmas alone with my 2 year old son after a divorce. Money was limited, and decorations were scarce. Decorations consisted of pine cone reindeer, and a small box of red balls. I still have the small white box labelled "decorations" from that year, which now many years later holds only a small portion of the decorations we use.
It was 1990, and my son made a bird decoration using pine cones and red feathers. No one but his mother recognizes that this is a bird, but I still proudly pull it out every year...and he is now 26.
It was 1991, and the first Christmas that my tree had some of my mother's favourite decorations. Breast cancer took her from us in 1982, and in 1991 our family gathered together to help my dad move from our family home. My sister and I divided up my mom's white feathered birds between us, and 1991 was the first year I had them on my tree. 
It was 1992, 1993, 1994....each year my son and I painted our own decorations....each one a memory of sitting together at the kitchen table.
It was 1995, and I received my first ornament from my new partner in our new home, a lovely clear glass ball with a tiny teddy bear inside. Married now, and many years later, it still warms my heart to pull it out of it's box to hang on the tree.
It was 1996, and my dad sent me a string angel...made to raise funds for a stroke recovery group. He had a major stroke in 1982, and the doctors, who said he'd never walk again, were proven wrong. That angel will always remind me of his determination and strength.
It was the turn of the century, and we were still living in Ontario, but by now we had moved from the nation's capital to a small community in the country. For several years we received a "Nova Scotia" ornament from our son and daughter-in-law living in Nova Scotia...a lighthouse wrapped in lights, a fisherman in a yellow slicker and sou'wester, a handmade snowman by an artist. In 2008 we moved to our new province and these ornaments are reminders of the years I spent dreaming of the "someday" that we would be living in our own Nova Scotia home.
It was 2012, the year that reminded me that no matter what challenges I am facing, it's the memories and love from family and friends that are the important things about Christmas. Decorations from the past. Decorations from my son....and now decorations from my 3 grandchildren. Decorations from family, and friends. My tree is not a "designer tree". My tree is a tree filled with memories, and filled with love.

our tree in 2012 - this year's tree will be put up on Saturday when our family arrives


Janet said...

Lovely then, lovely now :) Thanks for re-sharing this, Sara. And I'll be reading it again in the newspaper next week!!

Merry Christmas!!

Anonymous said...

I am crying. How beautiful! You painted a story in my mind. I felt like I was peeking in to your memories.
We look very forward to creating new ones this year and are excited to be trekking out into the bush and cutting down the tree.
Love DIL, G and Miss M

CrimsonLeaves said...

Such a touching post, Sara...I almost felt as if I was part of those years. Your family has endured much and I suspect you've become stronger for it. Your Christmas memories are bittersweet and oh so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Sara. I'll bet it smells good too!
Merry X-mas

Sybil said...

Wonderful sentimental memories Sara. Marvellous tree. Merry Christmas to you and yours.