It's pretty obvious by my line of work, I’m a fan of nostalgia. I’m a sentimental person and traditions mean a lot to me. The past two years, though, this season has gotten tougher. Like many, I miss the people in my life who are so closely associated with my holiday traditions. You met my grandma Betty in my Thanksgiving blog. Guess what? She floods my Christmas memories, too. Losing her and my Father a year apart during the month of November has changed my holidays. My already small family has shrunk; the extended family doesn’t get together. Some traditions die along with the people.
And then there’s my job. Working retail of any kind during the holidays dampens your spirit. I felt the holiday grind by Halloween and it hasn’t let up. After our Holiday Open House - which was the first weekend in November - I had already had enough. This year, I asked my husband if we could just skip it - no tree, no presents, just get through it. Normally, I’m a glass half full kind of girl, so this Christmas struggle really left me feeling empty.
Dear Husband agreed to skipping gifts but put his foot down to the skipping Christmas. And I’m so glad he did. His heartfelt, wise words are what convinced me. You can’t let the retail monster consume you and your holiday spirit. You can’t skip out on your own traditions because you’re too busy helping others with theirs. WE can’t skip out on the opportunity to honor our past and continue building our own future just because the old gang doesn’t get together. We go on.
It hit me hard. He’s right.
So, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the Christmas boxes came down from the attic and up went the tree.
As we opened each box, the tears came. And I allowed them. One of my favorite Christmas traditions each year was going to Mamaw’s house to help her with her little tree. Even through college and after I had moved away and married, I would still drive in to help put up that tiny tree and cover it in cheap vintage tinsel.
Here it is circa 1990. Just like my memories.
My grandparents were very modest people. There wasn’t a lot of fancy; they didn’t add to their decorations over the years, it was always the same ones “the kids made”. It makes perfect sense considering my grandmother saved and reused everything. I imagine growing up in the Depression era contributed to her yearly tradition of saving and recycling wrapping paper, boxes and bows. I can still hear the family comically yelling to “Save the bows!! Save the bows!!”
When I was younger, my least favorite trimmings were the boring cardboard cut out ornaments my Mom and Uncle made as kids. They were handcrafted from vintage wrapping paper and cut outs from Christmas Cards they’d received. They weren’t flashy, I didn’t understand why they were so special.
Now, my favorite ornaments to hang every year are those exact ones. The resourcefulness of the 1950s lives on in 2018. It was a pain every year to remove the tinsel piece by piece and store it for next Christmas. But, on Mamaw’s insistence, we did. And of course, that’s the tinsel I now use. It’s a miracle these items have stayed in tact, even the little ski pole that was meticulously cut out is still attached to this little skier.
Our tree is up. Our home is cozy. My heart is full. Blessings are counted.
These items tell our family story. The characters and narrative may have changed, but that's what stories do. The great thing is, we can always revisit them, knowing it doesn’t have an end. They are the fabric of our traditions and the threads that bind our hearts. We are what keep them alive.
Wherever your heart lies, if there is anything keeping you from observing, I challenge you to open yourself up the new. Even if the season has changed for you, fighting it only makes it harder. This realization is what truly renewed my Christmas spirit. I’m so thankful that, with the help of my husband, my Grinch heart softened.