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Evergreen Christmas

christmas ornaments1970

It’s four days before Christmas, and my father finally retrieves from beneath the cellar stairs the huge Sears box that houses our Christmas tree. The tree is heavy, its metal trunk solid and plumed with thick branches trimmed with rough-cut green cellophane that simulates pine needles.

It’s the only Christmas tree I’ve ever known, and when my father wrestles it upright and folds its heavy wire branches down, one by one, it’s as magical to me as a butterfly unfurling new wings. He gets pinched once or twice by the boughs as he tugs them into place. “Goddamit,” he says under his breath, to no one in particular.

Then comes the endless detangling of lights (“Goddamit!!”), and my favorite part: the box of ornaments. Most of our Christmas tree ornaments are flimsy or plastic—cheap molded candy canes painted with red, uneven stripes; cardboard stars dipped in white glue and glitter; small plastic elves trimmed sloppily with felt, their faces painted by someone who slap-dashed their eyes on, completely askew from the divot meant to replicate a tiny plastic eye socket. But I love them all.

What I love best, though, are the few fragile glass balls that predate me and are carefully hung in a place of honor on the tree, high up in front. They aren’t particularly fancy, but they are beautiful in the eyes of a 6-year-old. My favorite is a fat little ball with a pointed tip, painted with a picture of a small white snowman holding what looks like a palm tree, but which I later realize is supposed to be a broom.

I don’t really fully know the story of the handful of painted glass ornaments on our tree—and I still don’t. They might have been purchased by my parents as newlyweds, or possibly they once hung on a tree at my grandparents’ house. But those years, they add import and sophistication to our metal tree, erected in the basement rec room. We aren’t a family prone to cultural or ethnic traditions: Like many of their generation, my parents have fully embraced the conveniences of the suburban New World and cast off the Old. But, still, our Christmas has the ornaments, and I associate them in a murky, unfocused way with all that is rich and good about family history, and ritual, and tradition.

1973

I am invited to my friend Heidi’s house for a Christmas party. Heidi’s mother is German. She swings open the door just as we hit the top step, at the threshold, and as we pass through… her meaty arms swing heavily, like hams in a butcher shop, over our heads. “Velcome! Velcome, children!” she says.

Heidi’s mother serves a kind of sweet bread I now know was stollen. It’s doughy and lemony and studded with fat raisins, and I can’t get enough of it. The bread was home-made, Heidi tells me, a point which I think confusing, because to me “home-made” is a package of brown-and-serve dinner rolls served heated in the oven, and I had never seen anything close to this braided bread in the pre-baked bakery aisle at the supermarket.

Heidi’s Christmas tree isn’t a tight cone like our perfect metal tree, I notice. Instead, it’s a real tree, messy and shapeless, with drooping boughs that shed needles on the carpet. Real candles are clipped to it, here and there, and though I’m old enough to wonder whether that’s safe… I still like the way they look. Heidi’s house—the stollen, the tree, her mother—seems full, and ample, and generous, a lot like Christmas itself should be, I think.

When I get home, I tell my mother about the party: the candles on the tree, the stollen, the tradition Heidi has of leaving her shoes by the fireplace on a certain night so Saint Nicholas will fill them with candy if she’s been good.

I ask my mother whether we might be a little German. She hugs me and laughs and says we are not. But that night she lets me put my shoes outside the door to my bedroom, because we don’t have a fireplace, and in the morning my sneakers are full of candy canes.

She was adamant about the tree, though, when I pushed my luck for a real one: “Why?” she said, in a tone I know is useless to argue against. “A real tree makes a mess and is a pain in the neck.”

1979

My father spends this Christmas hospitalized with a lung cancer that will—by next fall—kill him, and my older brother opts to buy a live tree rather than set up the one that’s under the stairs. My mother, weary and distracted, doesn’t argue.

My brother drives a Plymouth Valiant, a boxy little car he inherited from our grandfather, so the best he can manage to tote home is a plump, stocky pine that, when he sets it in its stand, is shorter than I am.

With our parents at the hospital, my brother and I decorate it without them, one eye on the TV. My brother eventually stretches out on the couch with a beer, and though he occasionally glances over at me, he doesn’t get up again. I finish the job myself, placing the old glass balls near the very top of the tree, which is this year more or less even with my sternum. I’m happy about a real tree, at last, but it doesn’t deliver anything close to the wallop of tradition I had imagined it might.

1988

After both my parents had died, there was a surprising volume of things, collected over a lifetime, to sift through in a house that had once housed the whole six of us. On a hot day in August, my two sisters, brother, and I parceled out their stuff in as civil and equitable a way as we could manage. The heat in my parent’s small ranch was oppressive; the job was depressing. Both things made us cranky, which made communication strained, which made us skip some corners in the house just to be done with the whole business. Some things—the Christmas stuff, the family photos—were left with me with a vague understanding to divide it eventually.

That Christmas, I tried to separate the box of ornaments into four piles, one for me and one for each of my siblings. I sat on the floor with the ornaments scattered around me—the plastic Santa boot; the paper mache gingerbread house; the ridiculously heavy flour and salt dough ornaments my sister Karen and I had years earlier copied from an issue of Woman’s Day; tarnished silver bells; the chipped plaster pear; and a few old glass balls that had managed to survive over the years.

The more I sifted through them, the more unbearable became the idea of breaking up what I had come to see as a unit. Separately, they seemed imperfect and ordinary, and in truth they were, seeing as they were purchased from discount stores or crafted by clumsy hands. But, together, the collection of ornaments created a context, and took on a meaning that individually they couldn’t possibly have. Together, they had, I realized then, the kind of gravitas I had longed to find years ago, and which, for a while, I thought was reserved only for old glass ornaments. Or families who baked their own stollen and put candles on trees.

Ours was a different kind of family, maybe. But, together, the oddball collection nonetheless told a story of lives lived out over decades, of successive generations, of the ritual of a family celebrating around a tree, fake or real.

2008

This year, as we have for the past decade, we cut down our Christmas tree at the same small tree farm and lug it home on top of the car. That night, when we hang the ornaments on the tree, I mention to my kids which among the trinkets came from my parents’ house. That’s all I say about them. Neither of children has ever known my parents, and there’s not much else to add.

They get a bigger kick out of their collected history: the oddball stuff we are inspired to string alongside the traditional ornaments—a set of keys from my first house, a cork from a particularly memorable evening, my toddler son’s favorite teether.

If you were to walk into my living room, you’d see a Christmas tree festooned with a collection that, with a few exceptions, appears as any on any other tree in any other living room in the world this time of year. But it’s not. It’s a festive mingling of the dead and the living, the past and the present, and the traditions we are still writing.

So what’s on your tree?

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121 Responses to Evergreen Christmas

  1. Todd Jordan says:

    Love your last thoughts..a mingling of the dead and the living. The best trees are ones like that.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Todd Jordan says:

    Love your last thoughts..a mingling of the dead and the living. The best trees are ones like that.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Zip, zero, nada. No Christmas tree here this year.

  4. Zip, zero, nada. No Christmas tree here this year.

  5. Sonny Gill says:

    Great story Ann.

    We would always have fake trees as my parents were never the type to lug a real tree on top of their car but we had fun with our plastic one and too had special ornaments.

    But those days are seemingly long and past as my sister and I grew up and moved away. Being home now for the holidays definitely makes me miss those times as a kid.

  6. Sonny Gill says:

    Great story Ann.

    We would always have fake trees as my parents were never the type to lug a real tree on top of their car but we had fun with our plastic one and too had special ornaments.

    But those days are seemingly long and past as my sister and I grew up and moved away. Being home now for the holidays definitely makes me miss those times as a kid.

  7. Leah says:

    Great post as always, Ann. I love reading your stories and insights. This is my first year living on my own, well, with my boyfriend, and we have started our own traditions. We cut down our Christmas tree the first weekend of December at a tree farm in Northern MA, hung the lights and garland that night, then the ornaments the next night. We buy ornaments on all the trips we take, so we have a small collection started already.

    And another German tradition (my family’s mostly Irish-German), we have a glass pickle hidden among the boughs of our tree. Since there are no children to find the special ornament on Christmas morning, we just hid it for the two of us. Merry Christmas!

  8. Leah says:

    Great post as always, Ann. I love reading your stories and insights. This is my first year living on my own, well, with my boyfriend, and we have started our own traditions. We cut down our Christmas tree the first weekend of December at a tree farm in Northern MA, hung the lights and garland that night, then the ornaments the next night. We buy ornaments on all the trips we take, so we have a small collection started already.

    And another German tradition (my family’s mostly Irish-German), we have a glass pickle hidden among the boughs of our tree. Since there are no children to find the special ornament on Christmas morning, we just hid it for the two of us. Merry Christmas!

  9. Ann, What a great memoir. It evokes memories of my own funky family and the various Christmas things that for me were as integral a part of the season as Santa. Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit of your history and to elevate of bit of mine to consciousness! Trish

  10. Ann, What a great memoir. It evokes memories of my own funky family and the various Christmas things that for me were as integral a part of the season as Santa. Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit of your history and to elevate of bit of mine to consciousness! Trish

  11. You and I have talked a little about my holiday blues, and you probably understand that kind of stuff better than most.

    I’ve had a rough 10 or so years. Ever since all the old people in my life started dying off in collector’s sets, all the rituals unraveled. My grandparents were the hinge on all our Christmas events. They were the nexus through which we had no fewer than 7 distinct Christmas experiences every year (we did a lot of visiting).

    It’s also that time of year that reminds me how selfish I’ve been ever since birth. I’m a greedy kid in reform. I want it to be all about me. Or I did, and now that I know that, I’m trying to fix that part of me. I’m much better these last two years.

    Also, it turns out that when I was going through tough financial times, the only time of year I couldn’t hide it was Christmas. Sending out hand made stuff is quaint and is probably more meaningful, but it also meant that I was poor that year, and couldn’t return favors.

    This year, I stumbled upon magic. Pure, unfiltered magic. I raised money. I asked friends from the web to drop a few bucks into a chipin widget, and I matched another $600 (was $500, but I spent some more) of my own. Result? $1700 spent for toys and books for kids.

    I feel like a million bucks.

    I’m never NOT going to do that again, because it helped with the blues.

    But, on to rituals.

    I’m in a really weird place. Since spawning, I’ve realized that my children require rituals, and that this falls on me. This is horrible! This is like Spiderman – “With great power comes great responsibility.” WTF? I’m a kid, too!!!!

    So, that’s tricky. I’m still trying to make “real” rituals that stick, and I realize that a ritual is just repetition with marketing, but shit. I’m somehow saying that these are traditions? My parents stole from my grandparents. So we’re both screwed there. They don’t know any better than me how to create the next set of rituals. It’s not like there’s a planning council.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing. I’ll mail you a check.

  12. You and I have talked a little about my holiday blues, and you probably understand that kind of stuff better than most.

    I’ve had a rough 10 or so years. Ever since all the old people in my life started dying off in collector’s sets, all the rituals unraveled. My grandparents were the hinge on all our Christmas events. They were the nexus through which we had no fewer than 7 distinct Christmas experiences every year (we did a lot of visiting).

    It’s also that time of year that reminds me how selfish I’ve been ever since birth. I’m a greedy kid in reform. I want it to be all about me. Or I did, and now that I know that, I’m trying to fix that part of me. I’m much better these last two years.

    Also, it turns out that when I was going through tough financial times, the only time of year I couldn’t hide it was Christmas. Sending out hand made stuff is quaint and is probably more meaningful, but it also meant that I was poor that year, and couldn’t return favors.

    This year, I stumbled upon magic. Pure, unfiltered magic. I raised money. I asked friends from the web to drop a few bucks into a chipin widget, and I matched another $600 (was $500, but I spent some more) of my own. Result? $1700 spent for toys and books for kids.

    I feel like a million bucks.

    I’m never NOT going to do that again, because it helped with the blues.

    But, on to rituals.

    I’m in a really weird place. Since spawning, I’ve realized that my children require rituals, and that this falls on me. This is horrible! This is like Spiderman – “With great power comes great responsibility.” WTF? I’m a kid, too!!!!

    So, that’s tricky. I’m still trying to make “real” rituals that stick, and I realize that a ritual is just repetition with marketing, but shit. I’m somehow saying that these are traditions? My parents stole from my grandparents. So we’re both screwed there. They don’t know any better than me how to create the next set of rituals. It’s not like there’s a planning council.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing. I’ll mail you a check.

  13. My throat tightened with memories I share similarly, though they come in teacups. And, my daughter now lovingly treasures many of them, too and even built a room to hold festive teas. But I have five grandsons… I have a hope that one will love the tea as we do, but then again… there are endings.

    Ann, I enjoyed reading this so much. What a treasure.

  14. My throat tightened with memories I share similarly, though they come in teacups. And, my daughter now lovingly treasures many of them, too and even built a room to hold festive teas. But I have five grandsons… I have a hope that one will love the tea as we do, but then again… there are endings.

    Ann, I enjoyed reading this so much. What a treasure.

  15. Like yours, our tree is a mingling of the recent past (our first efforts at collecting ornaments when newlywed), the distant past (a few legacy items from my own childhood), and a slew of priceless and and value-less bits that escort us back through the years of our little ones as they have become, nowadays, not so little. And we fully intend to keep handing these memories down to the next generation of trees…

  16. Like yours, our tree is a mingling of the recent past (our first efforts at collecting ornaments when newlywed), the distant past (a few legacy items from my own childhood), and a slew of priceless and and value-less bits that escort us back through the years of our little ones as they have become, nowadays, not so little. And we fully intend to keep handing these memories down to the next generation of trees…

  17. Ann,

    It’s official. If you ever stop writing these, I’m going to have to come straight to Boston and slap you.

    Our tree this year is a clear indication of the insanity of 2008. We managed to get the tree and lights on, but that’s it. No ornaments. For two weeks now we’ve said we’ll do it this week or this weekend, but it never happened.

    Strangely, it’s peaceful. It’s incredibly simple, just the tree and the lights, and it’s beautiful. Maybe we’ll get the ornaments up next year.

    Thank you for sharing, Ann. You’re a treasure.

    Amber

  18. Ann,

    It’s official. If you ever stop writing these, I’m going to have to come straight to Boston and slap you.

    Our tree this year is a clear indication of the insanity of 2008. We managed to get the tree and lights on, but that’s it. No ornaments. For two weeks now we’ve said we’ll do it this week or this weekend, but it never happened.

    Strangely, it’s peaceful. It’s incredibly simple, just the tree and the lights, and it’s beautiful. Maybe we’ll get the ornaments up next year.

    Thank you for sharing, Ann. You’re a treasure.

    Amber

  19. Tine Steiss says:

    a real tree in my parents living room, which my Dad and I decorate. Some of the things on the tree are older than me, some are new, as we add a couple of new ones every year.
    As I’m german, we have homemade Stollen, cookies, Fruitbread, Glühwein and Punsch but no real candles.

  20. Tine Steiss says:

    a real tree in my parents living room, which my Dad and I decorate. Some of the things on the tree are older than me, some are new, as we add a couple of new ones every year.
    As I’m german, we have homemade Stollen, cookies, Fruitbread, Glühwein and Punsch but no real candles.

  21. Ann – lovely and powerful – thank you for sharing.

    I was up most of the night cleaning a house that reflected a year long depression fueled by a year long unemployment. Luckily, blessedly, joyfully my unemployment is over. There are no paychecks until mid-January but hope is a powerful thing.

    But that isn’t what makes my holiday so – unique (some would say just plain odd) – it is the fact that I am a convert to Judaism whose 12 years of Catholic schooling and singing in the choir hard wired my soul to love all things Christmas. I love the lights, I adore the music and the corny holiday specials. I eat them up like candy.

    I live in a predominantly Jewish area – I sneak the tree in the back door thought I am sure the bright lights shine through the blinds causing my more observant neighbors to shake their heads in disapproval..

    I don’t care – I think G-d understands that the happiest moments of a hard childhood were the few days before and after Christmas. My father scoured the lots after closing on Christmas eve and often returned with the skimpiest of trees.

    He took what he could find and when he got it home he was often impatient with the set up and decorating tasks – one memorable year, frustrated that the tree was too tall he simply cut it off at the top leaving it looking like the victim of a low flying jet.

    But once the tinsel was on it was magic. He quieted and we went to midnight mass where I poured my love into Silent Night and Hark the Herald Angels sing.

    And I was happy. As I am happy today – blissfully happy that I have a job to go to in the new year. A job that will enable to keep food on the table and a roof over my head.

    Than you Ann for reminding me of why this season holds such magic.

  22. Ann – lovely and powerful – thank you for sharing.

    I was up most of the night cleaning a house that reflected a year long depression fueled by a year long unemployment. Luckily, blessedly, joyfully my unemployment is over. There are no paychecks until mid-January but hope is a powerful thing.

    But that isn’t what makes my holiday so – unique (some would say just plain odd) – it is the fact that I am a convert to Judaism whose 12 years of Catholic schooling and singing in the choir hard wired my soul to love all things Christmas. I love the lights, I adore the music and the corny holiday specials. I eat them up like candy.

    I live in a predominantly Jewish area – I sneak the tree in the back door thought I am sure the bright lights shine through the blinds causing my more observant neighbors to shake their heads in disapproval..

    I don’t care – I think G-d understands that the happiest moments of a hard childhood were the few days before and after Christmas. My father scoured the lots after closing on Christmas eve and often returned with the skimpiest of trees.

    He took what he could find and when he got it home he was often impatient with the set up and decorating tasks – one memorable year, frustrated that the tree was too tall he simply cut it off at the top leaving it looking like the victim of a low flying jet.

    But once the tinsel was on it was magic. He quieted and we went to midnight mass where I poured my love into Silent Night and Hark the Herald Angels sing.

    And I was happy. As I am happy today – blissfully happy that I have a job to go to in the new year. A job that will enable to keep food on the table and a roof over my head.

    Than you Ann for reminding me of why this season holds such magic.

  23. Ann Kingman says:

    I just bared my soul here and WordPress ate it. So instead, I will just say:
    Ann, thanks so much for the gift of this post. A very Merry Christmas to you and your family. Keep writing; you do it so very well.

  24. Ann Kingman says:

    I just bared my soul here and WordPress ate it. So instead, I will just say:
    Ann, thanks so much for the gift of this post. A very Merry Christmas to you and your family. Keep writing; you do it so very well.

  25. Ann,
    I am so happy that I magically found your article today, on Christmas Eve.
    For me, the rituals are quite different, though. I am Jewish.

    I grew up in a pretty Italian area, so I did see my share of X-mas trees.

    Of course, since I married a nice Italian girl, we have had a X-Mas tree in our house for every one of the 16 years of our marriage.

    Like your late father, my memories of our trees past have consisted of a lot of “damn it! This stupid tree box is once again falling apart.”

    Thank you Ann, for another great article. {Story}

    You should write for the Huff Post, you are so good!

    Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

    Joel Libava

  26. I told some co-workers the other day that I used to get seasonal affective disorder but ever since I stopped celebrating Christmas, I’m all better!

    I was kind of “kidding on the square.” My mom is really into Christmas so the house was always magical at Yuletide with wreaths, lights, garlands, and lots of baked goods, but going home for Christmas became increasingly bittersweet as I got older, and eventually my holiday trips to the old homestead became less frequent.

    Still, it’s funny, when I am home, I love seeing the ornaments from my childhood – the cartoony glass mushroom my mom bought in Denver in 1968, the wooden ornaments we painted as kids in Baltimore, a weird ceramic lamb that seemed too heavy for the tree and looked like a cookie, the hand-made, egg-shell-headed, gold spray-painted angel that my mom made as a newlywed and that always perched atop the tree – and am oddly insulted by the interlopers that have been added in the 20+ years since I moved out.

    The new stuff always seems fake to me . “Those aren’t OUR ornaments,” I think. And, of course, they aren’t. Our ornaments are those of my childhood and belong to a family that, with my father gone and siblings dispersed to their own increasingly idiosyncratic lives, only exists in the ephemeral, recollected charm of those “imperfect and ordinary” objects hanging on the tree.

    Thanks,

    Matt

    BTW- Nice writing. A+!

  27. Joel Libava says:

    Ann,
    I am so happy that I magically found your article today, on Christmas Eve.
    For me, the rituals are quite different, though. I am Jewish.

    I grew up in a pretty Italian area, so I did see my share of X-mas trees.

    Of course, since I married a nice Italian girl, we have had a X-Mas tree in our house for every one of the 16 years of our marriage.

    Like your late father, my memories of our trees past have consisted of a lot of “damn it! This stupid tree box is once again falling apart.”

    Thank you Ann, for another great article. {Story}

    You should write for the Huff Post, you are so good!

    Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

    Joel Libava

  28. I told some co-workers the other day that I used to get seasonal affective disorder but ever since I stopped celebrating Christmas, I’m all better!

    I was kind of “kidding on the square.” My mom is really into Christmas so the house was always magical at Yuletide with wreaths, lights, garlands, and lots of baked goods, but going home for Christmas became increasingly bittersweet as I got older, and eventually my holiday trips to the old homestead became less frequent.

    Still, it’s funny, when I am home, I love seeing the ornaments from my childhood – the cartoony glass mushroom my mom bought in Denver in 1968, the wooden ornaments we painted as kids in Baltimore, a weird ceramic lamb that seemed too heavy for the tree and looked like a cookie, the hand-made, egg-shell-headed, gold spray-painted angel that my mom made as a newlywed and that always perched atop the tree – and am oddly insulted by the interlopers that have been added in the 20+ years since I moved out.

    The new stuff always seems fake to me . “Those aren’t OUR ornaments,” I think. And, of course, they aren’t. Our ornaments are those of my childhood and belong to a family that, with my father gone and siblings dispersed to their own increasingly idiosyncratic lives, only exists in the ephemeral, recollected charm of those “imperfect and ordinary” objects hanging on the tree.

    Thanks,

    Matt

    BTW- Nice writing. A+!

  29. Lucia Orth says:

    Thank Twitter friends for leading me to your essay.
    My 4 writer friends were just talking yesterday about Christmas memories. I realized singing — the choir — was what sustained me in a sometimes difficult house and season. A bad memory of a drunk family member knocking over the just decorated Christmas tree .. that I cannot share with my own happy children.
    As Annie Dillard said, “Why are we here? For the sake of the choir.” Singing stars, solstice, celebration of family and friends who become family. Blessings and peace. Thank you for the essay and other responses.

  30. Lucia Orth says:

    Thank Twitter friends for leading me to your essay.
    My 4 writer friends were just talking yesterday about Christmas memories. I realized singing — the choir — was what sustained me in a sometimes difficult house and season. A bad memory of a drunk family member knocking over the just decorated Christmas tree .. that I cannot share with my own happy children.
    As Annie Dillard said, “Why are we here? For the sake of the choir.” Singing stars, solstice, celebration of family and friends who become family. Blessings and peace. Thank you for the essay and other responses.

  31. Greg Huntoon says:

    Thanks so much for writing this. I’m so tempted to do the same now. Recollection is one of the greatest tools we have…the ability to conjure up and relive warm memories on a whim…mmmm, so nice. Like the Christmas my dad surprised us with a brand new cocker spaniel; seems storybook to write it down now, but it was one of those perfect Christmas moments I’ll never forget.

    I also have to say: @chrisbrogan, I related to your comment in more ways than one. I will be joining you next Xmas w/ that donation idea, and have taken over as the guy responsible for creating that Christmas spirit and tradition.

    My dad helps quite a bit though, as his first turn of holiday music usually accompanies Thanksgiving dinner. The season also can’t pass without the story about how in tough times he just got an orange in his stocking…usually comes with his explanation on why we always have a big bulbous lump in our own stockings each Christmas.

    In any case, thanks so much for the post. It was a joy to read.

  32. Greg Huntoon says:

    Thanks so much for writing this. I’m so tempted to do the same now. Recollection is one of the greatest tools we have…the ability to conjure up and relive warm memories on a whim…mmmm, so nice. Like the Christmas my dad surprised us with a brand new cocker spaniel; seems storybook to write it down now, but it was one of those perfect Christmas moments I’ll never forget.

    I also have to say: @chrisbrogan, I related to your comment in more ways than one. I will be joining you next Xmas w/ that donation idea, and have taken over as the guy responsible for creating that Christmas spirit and tradition.

    My dad helps quite a bit though, as his first turn of holiday music usually accompanies Thanksgiving dinner. The season also can’t pass without the story about how in tough times he just got an orange in his stocking…usually comes with his explanation on why we always have a big bulbous lump in our own stockings each Christmas.

    In any case, thanks so much for the post. It was a joy to read.

  33. StarwindE says:

    “A mingling of the dead and the living,” is, seems to me, an apt description of all of our Yuletide trees. The unpacking of ornaments always brings a flood of memories. While some are happy and others sad, I am grateful for the triggers that return me to days long gone but shared with people whom I’ll always carry in my heart.

    May your Christmas be filled with memories and joy.

  34. StarwindE says:

    “A mingling of the dead and the living,” is, seems to me, an apt description of all of our Yuletide trees. The unpacking of ornaments always brings a flood of memories. While some are happy and others sad, I am grateful for the triggers that return me to days long gone but shared with people whom I’ll always carry in my heart.

    May your Christmas be filled with memories and joy.

  35. Mollie Marti says:

    Ann,

    What a gift you have. You’re writing my life – and so many others’ too.

    My mom died same year as yours (& dad later). I remember dividing possessions with my family and what seemed an afterthought at the time (few family Christmas ornaments from our old artificial tree) are now some of my most cherished possessions.

    Your writing has inspired me to be more intentional and present as I set about sharing the old and writing new traditions with my kids.

    Merry Christmas, Ann!

    Mollie

  36. Mollie Marti says:

    Ann,

    What a gift you have. You’re writing my life – and so many others’ too.

    My mom died same year as yours (& dad later). I remember dividing possessions with my family and what seemed an afterthought at the time (few family Christmas ornaments from our old artificial tree) are now some of my most cherished possessions.

    Your writing has inspired me to be more intentional and present as I set about sharing the old and writing new traditions with my kids.

    Merry Christmas, Ann!

    Mollie

  37. Amy says:

    My comment was eaten :(

    We always had fake trees growing up. 4 years ago, I adopted my boyfriend’s tradition of cutting down a tree each year at a tree farm. I love the holiday spirit and fresh air at a tree farm. I love the whole outdoor experience. Our tree is a hodgepodge of each of our family ornaments. My favorites are a pair of loons (very Minnesotan), a very sparkly corn cob, and a MN Viking nutcracker.

  38. Amy says:

    My comment was eaten :(

    We always had fake trees growing up. 4 years ago, I adopted my boyfriend’s tradition of cutting down a tree each year at a tree farm. I love the holiday spirit and fresh air at a tree farm. I love the whole outdoor experience. Our tree is a hodgepodge of each of our family ornaments. My favorites are a pair of loons (very Minnesotan), a very sparkly corn cob, and a MN Viking nutcracker.

  39. Michelle BB says:

    Ann, thank you for the beautiful and touching post. While I can’t share in your Christmas memories – I am Jewish – I do recall many Hanukkahs that evoke the same sort of sentiment.

    Best wishes to you and your family this holiday season.

  40. Michelle BB says:

    Ann, thank you for the beautiful and touching post. While I can’t share in your Christmas memories – I am Jewish – I do recall many Hanukkahs that evoke the same sort of sentiment.

    Best wishes to you and your family this holiday season.

  41. Connie Reece says:

    My sister is the Keeper of Christmas in our family. She was a frail infant, sent home from the many specialists with the admonition to “love her as long as you have her” because she wasn’t expected to survive childhood.

    Defying the doctors, she held on to life. One of her first words was “kippa tee” — Christmas tree. Flash forward 50+ years and she has an entire room full of Christmas ornaments, decorations and keepsakes. Two shelves full of books about Christmas. She always throws a small party on the evening we decorate the main tree, just the three of us (Mom is still with us, thank the Lord) and a few close friends.

    There is a story behind every ornament, of course, and we often ask Laurie to recount them. The blown glass sparrow in an egg I bought for the first tree she had in her own house in 1977. Ornaments from every place we’ve traveled. She sets out the Lefton china elves that adorned our tree at Christmases past — too fragile now to hang on the tree. And the cheap miniature Santa mugs that always make me smile. How did they survive all these years?

    So many memories. So many heartaches. So many blessings. Scattered all over the house for a few days each winter. Precious, precious treasures.

    Thanks, Ann, for stirring the memories.

  42. Connie Reece says:

    My sister is the Keeper of Christmas in our family. She was a frail infant, sent home from the many specialists with the admonition to “love her as long as you have her” because she wasn’t expected to survive childhood.

    Defying the doctors, she held on to life. One of her first words was “kippa tee” — Christmas tree. Flash forward 50+ years and she has an entire room full of Christmas ornaments, decorations and keepsakes. Two shelves full of books about Christmas. She always throws a small party on the evening we decorate the main tree, just the three of us (Mom is still with us, thank the Lord) and a few close friends.

    There is a story behind every ornament, of course, and we often ask Laurie to recount them. The blown glass sparrow in an egg I bought for the first tree she had in her own house in 1977. Ornaments from every place we’ve traveled. She sets out the Lefton china elves that adorned our tree at Christmases past — too fragile now to hang on the tree. And the cheap miniature Santa mugs that always make me smile. How did they survive all these years?

    So many memories. So many heartaches. So many blessings. Scattered all over the house for a few days each winter. Precious, precious treasures.

    Thanks, Ann, for stirring the memories.

  43. Lisa Kelly says:

    This year there is a tree. It has large colored lights on it. I love to turn it on very early in the dark of the morning and stare at it while I have my coffee.

    No ornaments. They’re still packed in boxes. Maybe it’s part of my quest this year to shed attachments to things. I usually have a ritual of putting them on the tree, reliving the time they were given to me, thinking about the person who gave them, what was going on in my life, happy, sad. It’s quite a lengthy trip down memory lane.

    It feels just fine this year to have them safely stored in the attic.

  44. Lisa Kelly says:

    This year there is a tree. It has large colored lights on it. I love to turn it on very early in the dark of the morning and stare at it while I have my coffee.

    No ornaments. They’re still packed in boxes. Maybe it’s part of my quest this year to shed attachments to things. I usually have a ritual of putting them on the tree, reliving the time they were given to me, thinking about the person who gave them, what was going on in my life, happy, sad. It’s quite a lengthy trip down memory lane.

    It feels just fine this year to have them safely stored in the attic.

  45. melissa says:

    Our family situation has changed a lot in the last few years. My mother packed up her house and moved in with her sister. My father has been living at various places (Sober houses, a rehab facility, & half-way homes). Seeing my Mom’s ornaments blended with ny Aunt’s was weird. The relentless ideals that we will have some kind of “movie-like” Christmas are gone. My husband and I have some of our own traditions to we do, but each year is slightly different as we have to travel to different parents’ homes for celebrations. His family is split and we have to split Holidays between the 3 set of parents and 2 states. We see different families, we eat different foods, and we observe different traditions. What I have learned is that it’s ok to have a hodgepodge of Christmas. It’s ok not to do exactly the same thing every year. Where ever we are we just try to do the best to make it our own. I’m hoping that when I have kids we’ll be able to incorporate some of the old and some of the new and find something that works well for us. Most-likely it will look like a big mess. As long as there is egg nog bread, it’ll be ok.

  46. melissa says:

    Our family situation has changed a lot in the last few years. My mother packed up her house and moved in with her sister. My father has been living at various places (Sober houses, a rehab facility, & half-way homes). Seeing my Mom’s ornaments blended with ny Aunt’s was weird. The relentless ideals that we will have some kind of “movie-like” Christmas are gone. My husband and I have some of our own traditions to we do, but each year is slightly different as we have to travel to different parents’ homes for celebrations. His family is split and we have to split Holidays between the 3 set of parents and 2 states. We see different families, we eat different foods, and we observe different traditions. What I have learned is that it’s ok to have a hodgepodge of Christmas. It’s ok not to do exactly the same thing every year. Where ever we are we just try to do the best to make it our own. I’m hoping that when I have kids we’ll be able to incorporate some of the old and some of the new and find something that works well for us. Most-likely it will look like a big mess. As long as there is egg nog bread, it’ll be ok.

  47. A beautifully written piece. Thanks. It made the Cranky Product Manager’s eyes tear up, just a little…

    Happy holidays.

  48. A beautifully written piece. Thanks. It made the Cranky Product Manager’s eyes tear up, just a little…

    Happy holidays.

  49. C.C. Chapman says:

    What a beautiful story and thank you for sharing.

    We have wooden sleds on our tree and they are the first thing hung every year. The church that my Grandmother went to made them every year at the bazaar.

    I remember when my wife was given hers. It was a big deal and a right of passage in our house. Then later to have my kids get theirs.

    Merry Christmas.

  50. C.C. Chapman says:

    What a beautiful story and thank you for sharing.

    We have wooden sleds on our tree and they are the first thing hung every year. The church that my Grandmother went to made them every year at the bazaar.

    I remember when my wife was given hers. It was a big deal and a right of passage in our house. Then later to have my kids get theirs.

    Merry Christmas.

  51. Amanda says:

    Great post to cure any Christmas blues. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Growing up we had a very small house which intern meant a very small tree. Now that I have my own home the bigger the tree the better. This years tree was so tall we couldn’t even put the star on the top but I knew as soon as I saw it that it was going to be our first tree as a newly married couple.
    It has been fun adding a new person to my life (my new husband) who came with his own traditions, ornaments and stories. We did have to hash out a few things like my classic white lights versus his large blinking colored bulbs. We compromised, I get the white lights on the tree and he gets his large lights on our bushes outside.
    When my grandparents passed away I was the first member elected from our family to go through their house, our house, the house my mother, all of my uncles and I grew up in. I was allowed to have anything but at the time I was younger and renting apartments and moving every year. I went for the small things that shaped my life or that represented bigger events to me. One of the first things I did was go into the attic and pulled out the Christmas ornaments. Like yours they aren’t the fanciest, they aren’t the shiniest. They are simple balls with tiny mirrors covering them. They blend in nicely with the Happy Meal reindeer I got when I was a child of the ’80s, the ‘Our First Home’ ornament we got after we purchased out house last year, the ornaments I made with clothespins and the lobster boat ornaments my mom hand painted. Now we have hung the classic ‘Our First Christmas’ ornament with the back of a car and a Just Married sign hanging in the back. When I step back from our huge tree the ornaments that catch my eyes are still those old glass bulbs my grandparents had. Some of them are shabby, some are missing a few mirrors and some of them still have metal paper clips for hanging them. I have real metal replacement hangers – I could replace them but its the fact that those were twisted on by my grandmothers fingers means more to me than the bulbs, or the new shiny bigger ornaments we have added to our tree.
    I hope all of your holidays are filled with warm memories like mine and you are surrounded by good friends and family!

  52. Amanda says:

    Great post to cure any Christmas blues. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Growing up we had a very small house which intern meant a very small tree. Now that I have my own home the bigger the tree the better. This years tree was so tall we couldn’t even put the star on the top but I knew as soon as I saw it that it was going to be our first tree as a newly married couple.
    It has been fun adding a new person to my life (my new husband) who came with his own traditions, ornaments and stories. We did have to hash out a few things like my classic white lights versus his large blinking colored bulbs. We compromised, I get the white lights on the tree and he gets his large lights on our bushes outside.
    When my grandparents passed away I was the first member elected from our family to go through their house, our house, the house my mother, all of my uncles and I grew up in. I was allowed to have anything but at the time I was younger and renting apartments and moving every year. I went for the small things that shaped my life or that represented bigger events to me. One of the first things I did was go into the attic and pulled out the Christmas ornaments. Like yours they aren’t the fanciest, they aren’t the shiniest. They are simple balls with tiny mirrors covering them. They blend in nicely with the Happy Meal reindeer I got when I was a child of the ’80s, the ‘Our First Home’ ornament we got after we purchased out house last year, the ornaments I made with clothespins and the lobster boat ornaments my mom hand painted. Now we have hung the classic ‘Our First Christmas’ ornament with the back of a car and a Just Married sign hanging in the back. When I step back from our huge tree the ornaments that catch my eyes are still those old glass bulbs my grandparents had. Some of them are shabby, some are missing a few mirrors and some of them still have metal paper clips for hanging them. I have real metal replacement hangers – I could replace them but its the fact that those were twisted on by my grandmothers fingers means more to me than the bulbs, or the new shiny bigger ornaments we have added to our tree.
    I hope all of your holidays are filled with warm memories like mine and you are surrounded by good friends and family!

  53. bdot says:

    Ann,

    Great story. …almost like I was there.
    When I was a small boy in the 60′s we always had a real tree, the only “FAKE” tree we ever saw was at my aunts house it was aluminum, with the color wheel….soooooo special. At some point (I cannot remember when, somewhere in the 70′s) the fake tree was bought and installed in the living room I hated that fake tree, it just didn’t smell right. In later years it never made it very far from it’s basement storage and was set up there so we could have more room. (the basement also enhanced it’s somewhat musty odor).

    2008: Our tree is similar, things are hung on it for their own story, we to have a cork, a bandaid, along with several hand made ornaments that my nieces and nephews and friends children had made over the years. We also have pictures of friends, relatives, and pets dressed up in different seasonal outfits,many of whom we will not see this Christmas, due to distance, or they are just no longer with us. Each ornament on the tree is very special to us, and recalling the story is half the fun of decorating the tree.

    On a final note flash back to 1979, I sure your brother must have gotten up to get another beer at some point, maybe stumble down the hall use the bathroom or rummage around looking for goodies to eat.

    Damn you handley, made me cry again.

    p.s. I wish I had that aluminum tree today, it’s not what the tree is made of, it’s what we feel about it.

  54. bdot says:

    Ann,

    Great story. …almost like I was there.
    When I was a small boy in the 60′s we always had a real tree, the only “FAKE” tree we ever saw was at my aunts house it was aluminum, with the color wheel….soooooo special. At some point (I cannot remember when, somewhere in the 70′s) the fake tree was bought and installed in the living room I hated that fake tree, it just didn’t smell right. In later years it never made it very far from it’s basement storage and was set up there so we could have more room. (the basement also enhanced it’s somewhat musty odor).

    2008: Our tree is similar, things are hung on it for their own story, we to have a cork, a bandaid, along with several hand made ornaments that my nieces and nephews and friends children had made over the years. We also have pictures of friends, relatives, and pets dressed up in different seasonal outfits,many of whom we will not see this Christmas, due to distance, or they are just no longer with us. Each ornament on the tree is very special to us, and recalling the story is half the fun of decorating the tree.

    On a final note flash back to 1979, I sure your brother must have gotten up to get another beer at some point, maybe stumble down the hall use the bathroom or rummage around looking for goodies to eat.

    Damn you handley, made me cry again.

    p.s. I wish I had that aluminum tree today, it’s not what the tree is made of, it’s what we feel about it.

  55. I love your stories. I may try my hand at some of the memories of Christmas past.

    I was just starting to begin a Christmas tradition. Two years ago, I purchased a cute little tree pre-lit after Christmas from Big Lots for $5. I also got some ornaments from the Dollar Store. Perfect. But my life is going in a different direction and even though I did put the tree up this year, last week, I posted it on Freecycle. Within an hour of posting, the tree was back in it’s box and off to its new owner. I miss that tree already, but I am hopeful that it is the start of a wonderful holiday tradition for another family. Happy Holidays.

  56. I love your stories. I may try my hand at some of the memories of Christmas past.

    I was just starting to begin a Christmas tradition. Two years ago, I purchased a cute little tree pre-lit after Christmas from Big Lots for $5. I also got some ornaments from the Dollar Store. Perfect. But my life is going in a different direction and even though I did put the tree up this year, last week, I posted it on Freecycle. Within an hour of posting, the tree was back in it’s box and off to its new owner. I miss that tree already, but I am hopeful that it is the start of a wonderful holiday tradition for another family. Happy Holidays.

  57. B.L Ochman says:

    Your writing is so consistently extraordinary Ann. Thank you for writing this.

    We celebrate Chanukah, and taking out the menorah is bittersweet every year because it is one of the few tangible things i have from my late nana, whom I adored.

    But I remember that my paternal grandparents had a tiny fake christmas tree when i was a little girl, and my grandmother would decorate it with tiny, wonderful things she’d collected.

    the rituals are so lovely because they stay with us. sadly, the people who start them, often can’t.

  58. B.L Ochman says:

    Your writing is so consistently extraordinary Ann. Thank you for writing this.

    We celebrate Chanukah, and taking out the menorah is bittersweet every year because it is one of the few tangible things i have from my late nana, whom I adored.

    But I remember that my paternal grandparents had a tiny fake christmas tree when i was a little girl, and my grandmother would decorate it with tiny, wonderful things she’d collected.

    the rituals are so lovely because they stay with us. sadly, the people who start them, often can’t.

  59. Donna Tocci says:

    Ann – this was a wonderful story of your memories of Christmas past. Thank you for sharing it with us. It’s made me reflect on Christmases past and traditions past as I struggle trying to make some new ones these last couple of years. Still trying to get there…
    Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all that is wonderful and bright.

  60. Donna Tocci says:

    Ann – this was a wonderful story of your memories of Christmas past. Thank you for sharing it with us. It’s made me reflect on Christmases past and traditions past as I struggle trying to make some new ones these last couple of years. Still trying to get there…
    Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all that is wonderful and bright.

  61. Doug Meacham says:

    Once again you managed to put a big lump in my throat with this beautiful and touching piece. Like you, I have ornaments that came from my parents; plain faded balls, a pine cone, a pinkish-red bell; which hang alongside collection of things that are the souvenirs of our life journey (like the little bride and groom from our wedding cake and the Domino’s Pizza “Noid”). The memories that each of these trinkets hold are more precious that any package under the tree.

    Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

  62. Doug Meacham says:

    Once again you managed to put a big lump in my throat with this beautiful and touching piece. Like you, I have ornaments that came from my parents; plain faded balls, a pine cone, a pinkish-red bell; which hang alongside collection of things that are the souvenirs of our life journey (like the little bride and groom from our wedding cake and the Domino’s Pizza “Noid”). The memories that each of these trinkets hold are more precious that any package under the tree.

    Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

  63. Alan Wolk says:

    I’ll go Amber one better: if you don’t make a book out of all these essays.

    Growing up in a very Jewish area I was aware of Christmas mostly as something that happened on TV– hardly anyone I knew actually celebrated it. But there was one Christian family on our block and every Christmas Eve they had a huge party for all the Jews (it wasn’t like any of us had anything going on that night). So for one evening we got to experience Christmas with a real tree – the mom was a decorator so it looked like a picture from a magazine- plus Christmas cookies and (as I got older) liquor in the form of spiked egg nog and punch. We usually went down to Florida the following day ( it was always cheaper to fly on Christmas Day) where the tropical weather made Christmas east to ignore, so I was always grateful for that little peek we had.

    2008 – as I sit in a resort hotel upstate surrounded by what seems like half the Jews in northern New Jersey, I once again get a Christmas Eve peek into the holiday thanks to your wonderul story and the comments from your readers.
    Thank you

  64. Alan Wolk says:

    I’ll go Amber one better: if you don’t make a book out of all these essays.

    Growing up in a very Jewish area I was aware of Christmas mostly as something that happened on TV– hardly anyone I knew actually celebrated it. But there was one Christian family on our block and every Christmas Eve they had a huge party for all the Jews (it wasn’t like any of us had anything going on that night). So for one evening we got to experience Christmas with a real tree – the mom was a decorator so it looked like a picture from a magazine- plus Christmas cookies and (as I got older) liquor in the form of spiked egg nog and punch. We usually went down to Florida the following day ( it was always cheaper to fly on Christmas Day) where the tropical weather made Christmas east to ignore, so I was always grateful for that little peek we had.

    2008 – as I sit in a resort hotel upstate surrounded by what seems like half the Jews in northern New Jersey, I once again get a Christmas Eve peek into the holiday thanks to your wonderul story and the comments from your readers.
    Thank you

  65. meryl333 says:

    Alan’s tweet pointed the way. The stories are rich & authentic. Best read for the holidays. May you and your family be blessed with a joyful Christmas. I’ll be watching for it next year. :-)

  66. meryl333 says:

    Alan’s tweet pointed the way. The stories are rich & authentic. Best read for the holidays. May you and your family be blessed with a joyful Christmas. I’ll be watching for it next year. :-)

  67. rickey gold says:

    Thank you, Ann, for a beautifully written post. And look how many people you touched with it….not to mention how many could relate to the “not quite the way we wished it could be” family holiday gathering. In hindsight, none are perfect, but all leave us with rich memories to bring to our own families. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

  68. rickey gold says:

    Thank you, Ann, for a beautifully written post. And look how many people you touched with it….not to mention how many could relate to the “not quite the way we wished it could be” family holiday gathering. In hindsight, none are perfect, but all leave us with rich memories to bring to our own families. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

  69. Ann,

    As usual, you knocked it out of the park! And not a dry eye in the house (including mine). The memories, which I tend to keep neatly stowed away along with my ornaments, came flooding back. And, no surprise, figured out again that we – as humans – have much more in common than we do differences. Trade the name and it could have been my house growing up…with the same brother on the couch…and the same German friend – who I even stayed with, once, for a whole summer vacation. I am so not kidding. :-? Thanks again for the peek in the past. It’s always my pleasure, dear. Happy holidays, Ann. I hope it’s filled with glorious warmth, peace, and light. :)

  70. Ann,

    As usual, you knocked it out of the park! And not a dry eye in the house (including mine). The memories, which I tend to keep neatly stowed away along with my ornaments, came flooding back. And, no surprise, figured out again that we – as humans – have much more in common than we do differences. Trade the name and it could have been my house growing up…with the same brother on the couch…and the same German friend – who I even stayed with, once, for a whole summer vacation. I am so not kidding. :-? Thanks again for the peek in the past. It’s always my pleasure, dear. Happy holidays, Ann. I hope it’s filled with glorious warmth, peace, and light. :)

  71. Christian Gulliksen says:

    Fantastic vignettes, Ann.

    Our Christmas trees (and by that I mean my parents’ trees) have always been more design-oriented than sentimental. Sometimes they’re almost baroque; sometimes they’re minimalist, limited to small white lights and golden orbs. I just returned from their house — we celebrate on Christmas Eve — and I honestly couldn’t tell you what the tree looked like, except that it was nice.

    I’ve never had my own tree, although I wouldn’t object if one were to appear magically in the corner.

  72. Christian Gulliksen says:

    Fantastic vignettes, Ann.

    Our Christmas trees (and by that I mean my parents’ trees) have always been more design-oriented than sentimental. Sometimes they’re almost baroque; sometimes they’re minimalist, limited to small white lights and golden orbs. I just returned from their house — we celebrate on Christmas Eve — and I honestly couldn’t tell you what the tree looked like, except that it was nice.

    I’ve never had my own tree, although I wouldn’t object if one were to appear magically in the corner.

  73. David Reich says:

    I can relate to this beautiful story, even though I’m Jewish and we’ve never celebrated Christmas. But the idea of family traditions — some with known and many with unknown origins — is universal.

    When our kids were young, we used to help our downstairs neighbors decorate their tree. I was a master at tinsel. I hated trying to untangle the string of lights.

    We’ve borrowed one piece of Christmas tradition — we have Chanukah stockings for the kids and dogs hanging from the fireplace.

    Since Christmas and Chanukah coincide this year, my holiday dinner will include oine of my favorites — potato latkes. If you’ve never had them, find a Jewish mom to make some for you. They’re the best.

  74. David Reich says:

    I can relate to this beautiful story, even though I’m Jewish and we’ve never celebrated Christmas. But the idea of family traditions — some with known and many with unknown origins — is universal.

    When our kids were young, we used to help our downstairs neighbors decorate their tree. I was a master at tinsel. I hated trying to untangle the string of lights.

    We’ve borrowed one piece of Christmas tradition — we have Chanukah stockings for the kids and dogs hanging from the fireplace.

    Since Christmas and Chanukah coincide this year, my holiday dinner will include oine of my favorites — potato latkes. If you’ve never had them, find a Jewish mom to make some for you. They’re the best.

  75. Scott Monty says:

    As usual Ann, the combination of your memory and your exceptional writing ability has resulted in a lovely gift for the rest of us this holiday season.

    I think that no matter the family, we’ve all got our quirky decorations, ornaments and traditions. And even if they don’t match up with anyone else’s, we cherish them for the very reason that they’re ours – precious and unique experiences and trinkets that are linked to our past. And by continuing those traditions, those of us with children hope to make that past part of our families’ future, for generations to come.

    Thank you Ann, for all of your talents that you share with us throughout the year and for this post. And just to show you that I’m not all maudlin about this, I’ll try to leave you with a smile on your face.

    “O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
    Fresh-made from the factory…”

  76. Scott Monty says:

    As usual Ann, the combination of your memory and your exceptional writing ability has resulted in a lovely gift for the rest of us this holiday season.

    I think that no matter the family, we’ve all got our quirky decorations, ornaments and traditions. And even if they don’t match up with anyone else’s, we cherish them for the very reason that they’re ours – precious and unique experiences and trinkets that are linked to our past. And by continuing those traditions, those of us with children hope to make that past part of our families’ future, for generations to come.

    Thank you Ann, for all of your talents that you share with us throughout the year and for this post. And just to show you that I’m not all maudlin about this, I’ll try to leave you with a smile on your face.

    “O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
    Fresh-made from the factory…”

  77. Paul Chaney says:

    I read this on Christmas eve via my iPhone, but, thanks to some rituals we were observing in our own family, was not anywhere near a computer (the fixed, desktop or laptop variety that is) until this morning.

    I swear I think you write these tomes with the full intent of bringing tears to my eyes. If not, it’s a side benefit, because you did yet again Ann.

    I’m getting to where I look forward to your posts as much as my morning cup of coffee and click the link in the email each time it comes with mixed emotions, an emotional cocktail if you would, a double shot of excitement blended with another of anxiety. Why? Because I know your post is likely to touch some deep emotional chord and bring back memories, though more often than not fond ones, not always.

    This one did yet again.

    At the risk of being too transparent, let me add the short version of my own Christmases past.

    At least from the time my children were born in the 1980s, my family was well onto creating our own traditions and rituals. That is, until November 2004. That’s when my wife and I separated.

    My sons, who were at the time 22 and 19, each took it differently. And though I believe it drove a dagger deep into both their hearts, the youngest seem to take it hardest. Needless to say, the first Christmas after was one none of us want to remember.

    That was four years ago and the holidays are still difficult. If I let myself think of what could have been, what should have been, I’d approach the them with deep melancholy and regret. There are days I still do.

    Now, I’m remarried and my wife, Amie, has done her best to take my sons into her heart and I’m happy to say we are on our way to creating a new set of traditions.

    Someone once told me, “You have to feel it to heal it.” Reading this precious post has caused a measure of both to happen, and for that I thank you.

  78. Paul Chaney says:

    I read this on Christmas eve via my iPhone, but, thanks to some rituals we were observing in our own family, was not anywhere near a computer (the fixed, desktop or laptop variety that is) until this morning.

    I swear I think you write these tomes with the full intent of bringing tears to my eyes. If not, it’s a side benefit, because you did yet again Ann.

    I’m getting to where I look forward to your posts as much as my morning cup of coffee and click the link in the email each time it comes with mixed emotions, an emotional cocktail if you would, a double shot of excitement blended with another of anxiety. Why? Because I know your post is likely to touch some deep emotional chord and bring back memories, though more often than not fond ones, not always.

    This one did yet again.

    At the risk of being too transparent, let me add the short version of my own Christmases past.

    At least from the time my children were born in the 1980s, my family was well onto creating our own traditions and rituals. That is, until November 2004. That’s when my wife and I separated.

    My sons, who were at the time 22 and 19, each took it differently. And though I believe it drove a dagger deep into both their hearts, the youngest seem to take it hardest. Needless to say, the first Christmas after was one none of us want to remember.

    That was four years ago and the holidays are still difficult. If I let myself think of what could have been, what should have been, I’d approach the them with deep melancholy and regret. There are days I still do.

    Now, I’m remarried and my wife, Amie, has done her best to take my sons into her heart and I’m happy to say we are on our way to creating a new set of traditions.

    Someone once told me, “You have to feel it to heal it.” Reading this precious post has caused a measure of both to happen, and for that I thank you.

  79. Katybeth says:

    Merry Christmas! A few of my favorite tree ornaments.. my son’s tiny moccasin, one of those kneeling elves that was past down and down, one ornament for all our pups past and present, and a painted pine cone from our son’s early childhood teacher–with a little note that said..See I was right he IS FINE!

  80. Katybeth says:

    Merry Christmas! A few of my favorite tree ornaments.. my son’s tiny moccasin, one of those kneeling elves that was past down and down, one ornament for all our pups past and present, and a painted pine cone from our son’s early childhood teacher–with a little note that said..See I was right he IS FINE!

  81. Ann you did it again. You get me all weepy or thoughtful when writing.

    I think B.L. said it best, the rituals are the loviest of memories because the people we make them with often can’t stay with us. It’s what makes those memories precious.

  82. Ann you did it again. You get me all weepy or thoughtful when writing.

    I think B.L. said it best, the rituals are the loviest of memories because the people we make them with often can’t stay with us. It’s what makes those memories precious.

  83. Julie says:

    Ann, I love the random ornaments, beloved pacifier, house keys. I like Christmas because I get a chance to make traditions with my little family. My son now insists that I go all out in decorating and always lights my smelly candles — he loves it and that makes me happy. My husband and I married in 1990 and each year he has given me an ornament. Those are the ones that the kids look forward to putting on the tree so I’m probably setting them up for a brawl in the future — YES!

  84. Julie says:

    Ann, I love the random ornaments, beloved pacifier, house keys. I like Christmas because I get a chance to make traditions with my little family. My son now insists that I go all out in decorating and always lights my smelly candles — he loves it and that makes me happy. My husband and I married in 1990 and each year he has given me an ornament. Those are the ones that the kids look forward to putting on the tree so I’m probably setting them up for a brawl in the future — YES!

  85. Jeepers, Ann…like I wasn’t teary-eyed enough thinking about home! Funny, isn’t it, how the chipped porcelain and mismatched ornaments stir in us a nostalgia for our own chipped and mismatched families.

    Hope you and your family had a wonderful, memorable Christmas. Cheers, my friend.

  86. Jeepers, Ann…like I wasn’t teary-eyed enough thinking about home! Funny, isn’t it, how the chipped porcelain and mismatched ornaments stir in us a nostalgia for our own chipped and mismatched families.

    Hope you and your family had a wonderful, memorable Christmas. Cheers, my friend.

  87. You’ve captured Christmas with ‘Evergreen.’ I had never thought of it that exact same way, but you’re right. My tree is a similar collection of stories… Thank you, Ann. Merry Christmas.

  88. You’ve captured Christmas with ‘Evergreen.’ I had never thought of it that exact same way, but you’re right. My tree is a similar collection of stories… Thank you, Ann. Merry Christmas.

  89. Julie Roads says:

    That was really beautiful, Ann. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Our tree has really just been making me laugh. It’s a total mishmosh of my childhood and patti’s, or our young adulthoods and now our parenthood together. Thankfully, we weren’t too attached to anything because our toddlers believe that our tree is a just another house for their toys. They systematically take ornaments down, play with them, break them, forget about them and on and on.

    It’s topped by a borrowed, GAUDY angel from our neighbors that is just too terrible for words – next year, a tree topper that matches our family is first on our list.

    This was the first year that my kids ‘got’ Xmas. It has been more precious than I thought possible…and more fun.

    Happy holidays to you…Julie

  90. Julie Roads says:

    That was really beautiful, Ann. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Our tree has really just been making me laugh. It’s a total mishmosh of my childhood and patti’s, or our young adulthoods and now our parenthood together. Thankfully, we weren’t too attached to anything because our toddlers believe that our tree is a just another house for their toys. They systematically take ornaments down, play with them, break them, forget about them and on and on.

    It’s topped by a borrowed, GAUDY angel from our neighbors that is just too terrible for words – next year, a tree topper that matches our family is first on our list.

    This was the first year that my kids ‘got’ Xmas. It has been more precious than I thought possible…and more fun.

    Happy holidays to you…Julie

  91. GiGi says:

    Ann,
    Nice post about Christmas past and Christmas present! I do find that the holidays remind us of where we’ve been in our family and life and having kids reminds us to keep and create traditions. My kids were excited when my mom gave us a lot of her old decorations last year. The Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus made out of Reader’s Digest magazines were a bit spent to say the least, but my kids loved them! I also think you realize how much your parents did their best with all the traditions, fun, and yes, stress of the holidays when you’re the one making Santa’s magic! Merry Christmas!

  92. GiGi says:

    Ann,
    Nice post about Christmas past and Christmas present! I do find that the holidays remind us of where we’ve been in our family and life and having kids reminds us to keep and create traditions. My kids were excited when my mom gave us a lot of her old decorations last year. The Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus made out of Reader’s Digest magazines were a bit spent to say the least, but my kids loved them! I also think you realize how much your parents did their best with all the traditions, fun, and yes, stress of the holidays when you’re the one making Santa’s magic! Merry Christmas!

  93. Ann Handley says:

    What I love most about all the comments here was the honesty. A belated thank you, everyone.

  94. Ann Handley says:

    What I love most about all the comments here was the honesty. A belated thank you, everyone.

  95. Zil says:

    A few hours ago I returned from 6 days of visiting and travelling to see the distant family for the Christmas holidays, the first Christmas since my husband’s Mom died. Feeling road weary after the 10 hour drive and all in all drained, I still decided to read Evergreen knowing the risk I took regarding emotions so close to the surface. As usual Ann, your writing was so wonderful and personal and always seems to get me thinking and reflecting.

    Growing up an only child with a single mom, I had few traditions (and little stability :-) But I could never forget the gigantic white fake Christmas tree my paternal grandparents put up each year. It was so formal and staid, just like they were – not a bit of warmth… in a Christmas tree at that!

    So now, in our home we get a live Christmas tree each year from the same local fund raiser location. And while my small family is not as enthusiastic as I am about the decorating I know they enjoy our tree full of eclectic ornaments that are a mish mash of home made and store bought that have been more or less consistent for the last 4-5 years.

    After a day on the road and feeling a little seasick (from the car) the first thing I did tonight when we walked in the house and put down our bags was turn on the christmas tree lights… I knew then I was finally home – in my home, the way I want it to be. I can only hope my duaghter will warmly remember our holiday traditions and rituals and will one day ask for some of the ornaments for her own tree. Happy Holidays to all!

  96. Zil says:

    A few hours ago I returned from 6 days of visiting and travelling to see the distant family for the Christmas holidays, the first Christmas since my husband’s Mom died. Feeling road weary after the 10 hour drive and all in all drained, I still decided to read Evergreen knowing the risk I took regarding emotions so close to the surface. As usual Ann, your writing was so wonderful and personal and always seems to get me thinking and reflecting.

    Growing up an only child with a single mom, I had few traditions (and little stability :-) But I could never forget the gigantic white fake Christmas tree my paternal grandparents put up each year. It was so formal and staid, just like they were – not a bit of warmth… in a Christmas tree at that!

    So now, in our home we get a live Christmas tree each year from the same local fund raiser location. And while my small family is not as enthusiastic as I am about the decorating I know they enjoy our tree full of eclectic ornaments that are a mish mash of home made and store bought that have been more or less consistent for the last 4-5 years.

    After a day on the road and feeling a little seasick (from the car) the first thing I did tonight when we walked in the house and put down our bags was turn on the christmas tree lights… I knew then I was finally home – in my home, the way I want it to be. I can only hope my duaghter will warmly remember our holiday traditions and rituals and will one day ask for some of the ornaments for her own tree. Happy Holidays to all!

  97. Maura Welch says:

    Among other treasured ornaments, my tree holds:
    - a painted gourd from a trip to Costa Rica
    - a ribbon from my wedding bouquet
    - a birdhouse painted abstractly by my then 4 year old son
    - my husband’s grandmother’s Santa shaped bell
    - the cuckoo clock ornament my brother Ian gave me 29 years ago
    - my grandmother’s blown glass birds that clip to the branches with little pinchers
    - an altar boy ornament that my mother used to hang on her tree as a child
    - a number of handmade ornaments inscribed by my kids “Mom” and “Dad”

    When we hang our ornaments, we share stories and laughs about them and about the people and places and experiences they represent. It’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

    I agree Ann, the tree forms the heart of a Christmas house – it’s like a living family art project.

  98. Maura Welch says:

    Among other treasured ornaments, my tree holds:
    - a painted gourd from a trip to Costa Rica
    - a ribbon from my wedding bouquet
    - a birdhouse painted abstractly by my then 4 year old son
    - my husband’s grandmother’s Santa shaped bell
    - the cuckoo clock ornament my brother Ian gave me 29 years ago
    - my grandmother’s blown glass birds that clip to the branches with little pinchers
    - an altar boy ornament that my mother used to hang on her tree as a child
    - a number of handmade ornaments inscribed by my kids “Mom” and “Dad”

    When we hang our ornaments, we share stories and laughs about them and about the people and places and experiences they represent. It’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

    I agree Ann, the tree forms the heart of a Christmas house – it’s like a living family art project.

  99. Hi Ann,

    Once again, your storytelling evokes powerful memories. Your post reminds me of a lot of good times. The ornaments for my family are snippets of language (pots and pans) and music (Godspell’s Day by Day), a private code unlocking lots of laughter.

  100. Hi Ann,

    Once again, your storytelling evokes powerful memories. Your post reminds me of a lot of good times. The ornaments for my family are snippets of language (pots and pans) and music (Godspell’s Day by Day), a private code unlocking lots of laughter.

  101. Tim Jackson says:

    I sometimes debate leaving a comment here or not on your posts. Sometimes I feel more like sending an email so I can blather on and on- trying to mix in my usual smart ass humor with the sincerest feelings. More than once your words have struck a deep and resonant chord in me. We’ve joked about it before, so you know pretty much how I feel about what you do here with this space. It is special. It is wonderful. It is very you.

    This year, our tree was drawn on a piece of paper from my daughter’s big roll of paper from the easel she no longer has. She covered the entire coffee table with it, so it’s close to 3 feet tall. She drew the tree and then taped on the ornaments that she made in class. We looked for a small fake tree this year, but never found one. Our apartment is crammed too full of crap for a real or large fake tree. Single dad life apparently comes with more large crap than I really should have here. Who knew?

    Admittedly, I’ve not been in the most spirited of Christmas moods the past two years. The divorce really sucked that out of me- hopefully only for now. The idea of getting a real tree and then finding or buying ornaments and lights just made me feel ill this year. Last year, she drew a tree to go with the tiny little potted tree we bought a few days before Christmas. It was actually something like Italian Rosemary, or something like that. It died a couple days after Christmas when she was on vacation in Cancun with her brother, mother and “mommy’s friend Chris”. Somehow I neglected to water it while she was gone.

    I have short memories of many different Christmas traditions involving ornaments of all types. I can remember making ornaments with my mother- the Queen of Craft. I even remember learning how to do cross stitch so I could make ornaments with her. After my folks divorced, we still got a real tree and we still put out the ornaments, but I got the job of putting the angel on the top (because I’m tall) and stringing the lights around the tree. My sister and I helped mom with the ornaments and the stories of many of the ornaments would be told. It was always a nice little night. Not a big production at all, but fun.

    My first marriage resulted in a few good trees and the creation of what I thought would be lifelong traditions. I was wrong of course. But at least I drug my few family ornaments out and placed them on the tree. They followed me into my second marriage and managed to make it onto a few great real trees before ending up on plastic trees- including one particularly ridiculous one from IKEA that looked like an anemic version of the sad little tree from the Charlie Brown special.

    After the second divorce, I have no idea where the Christmas ornaments are now and I admit that it doesn’t hurt too much, for now. I vaguely recall an “I found a box with some of your ornaments in it” either mentioned on the phone or sent in a text message. I think. After reading your story, I’d kinda like to get them back to preserve those poignant memories of grandparents that have been long dead and marriages buried by time and new memories. I’d like to preserve a little something for my daughter. Something that we can eventually call our own tradition- other than trees drawn on craft paper with crayons and taped to a wall.

    I have my few bits of memories of what Christmas was, when it meant more to me. Before the crushing defeats of life lived under the rule of emotion and not logic. The dreams of a dreamer break painfully. But now I want to find something for her to remember when she sits crosslegged on the floor sorting through our life. I owe her that much for Christmas, since the toys will break or be lost and the clothes will be outgrown.

  102. Tim Jackson says:

    I sometimes debate leaving a comment here or not on your posts. Sometimes I feel more like sending an email so I can blather on and on- trying to mix in my usual smart ass humor with the sincerest feelings. More than once your words have struck a deep and resonant chord in me. We’ve joked about it before, so you know pretty much how I feel about what you do here with this space. It is special. It is wonderful. It is very you.

    This year, our tree was drawn on a piece of paper from my daughter’s big roll of paper from the easel she no longer has. She covered the entire coffee table with it, so it’s close to 3 feet tall. She drew the tree and then taped on the ornaments that she made in class. We looked for a small fake tree this year, but never found one. Our apartment is crammed too full of crap for a real or large fake tree. Single dad life apparently comes with more large crap than I really should have here. Who knew?

    Admittedly, I’ve not been in the most spirited of Christmas moods the past two years. The divorce really sucked that out of me- hopefully only for now. The idea of getting a real tree and then finding or buying ornaments and lights just made me feel ill this year. Last year, she drew a tree to go with the tiny little potted tree we bought a few days before Christmas. It was actually something like Italian Rosemary, or something like that. It died a couple days after Christmas when she was on vacation in Cancun with her brother, mother and “mommy’s friend Chris”. Somehow I neglected to water it while she was gone.

    I have short memories of many different Christmas traditions involving ornaments of all types. I can remember making ornaments with my mother- the Queen of Craft. I even remember learning how to do cross stitch so I could make ornaments with her. After my folks divorced, we still got a real tree and we still put out the ornaments, but I got the job of putting the angel on the top (because I’m tall) and stringing the lights around the tree. My sister and I helped mom with the ornaments and the stories of many of the ornaments would be told. It was always a nice little night. Not a big production at all, but fun.

    My first marriage resulted in a few good trees and the creation of what I thought would be lifelong traditions. I was wrong of course. But at least I drug my few family ornaments out and placed them on the tree. They followed me into my second marriage and managed to make it onto a few great real trees before ending up on plastic trees- including one particularly ridiculous one from IKEA that looked like an anemic version of the sad little tree from the Charlie Brown special.

    After the second divorce, I have no idea where the Christmas ornaments are now and I admit that it doesn’t hurt too much, for now. I vaguely recall an “I found a box with some of your ornaments in it” either mentioned on the phone or sent in a text message. I think. After reading your story, I’d kinda like to get them back to preserve those poignant memories of grandparents that have been long dead and marriages buried by time and new memories. I’d like to preserve a little something for my daughter. Something that we can eventually call our own tradition- other than trees drawn on craft paper with crayons and taped to a wall.

    I have my few bits of memories of what Christmas was, when it meant more to me. Before the crushing defeats of life lived under the rule of emotion and not logic. The dreams of a dreamer break painfully. But now I want to find something for her to remember when she sits crosslegged on the floor sorting through our life. I owe her that much for Christmas, since the toys will break or be lost and the clothes will be outgrown.

  103. Katrina Hollmann says:

    Ann, I have to say that I’m glad I turned off all Twitter, blogs and the like for the holidays. Had I actually read this before or on Christmas I might have been a basket-case for days.

    Christmas has always been hard for me as I’m usually not able to be with family. Decorating the tree and church services at this time of year often leave me with a strange mix of emotions. This was also the first year I put up a tree since my divorce two years ago and it was sad going through ornaments that used to mean something and now are just memories of something unfulfilled. What was left was a theme tree – a theme of colors and not much else. Our tree growing up was always so much more and, while not my personal style as an adult, carries so much more weight now that I understand that the stories behind all of the ornaments mean far more than the aesthetic appeal. My goal going forward is to create a tree that has those stories and that history,….tears while decorating be damned!

  104. Katrina Hollmann says:

    Ann, I have to say that I’m glad I turned off all Twitter, blogs and the like for the holidays. Had I actually read this before or on Christmas I might have been a basket-case for days.

    Christmas has always been hard for me as I’m usually not able to be with family. Decorating the tree and church services at this time of year often leave me with a strange mix of emotions. This was also the first year I put up a tree since my divorce two years ago and it was sad going through ornaments that used to mean something and now are just memories of something unfulfilled. What was left was a theme tree – a theme of colors and not much else. Our tree growing up was always so much more and, while not my personal style as an adult, carries so much more weight now that I understand that the stories behind all of the ornaments mean far more than the aesthetic appeal. My goal going forward is to create a tree that has those stories and that history,….tears while decorating be damned!

  105. Maral Habeshian says:

    I’m misty eyed Annie and reviewing the possibility of abandoning my tree-Nazi tendencies after reading this.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  106. Maral Habeshian says:

    I’m misty eyed Annie and reviewing the possibility of abandoning my tree-Nazi tendencies after reading this.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  107. My 18-year-old commented to some friends that we hadn’t had a real tree since she was four. I guess the guilt factor was at work, since we broke down and paid for a real tree this year; left the sad, dusty fake one in its box in the basement. I love how the pine scent hits me as soon as I walk in the door. It is so worth it!

    When my siblings and I were younger, we had St. Nicholas day. Stockings were filled and left by our bedroom doors on the 6th of Dec. This is probably the result of my mom’s German heritage. Back then we lived in Florida and my Dad would “flock” the tree with this white spray stuff, meant to look like snow. I guess we were hoping for a white Christmas.

    Anyway, I loved your heartfelt story and hope you don’t mind me stopping by.

  108. My 18-year-old commented to some friends that we hadn’t had a real tree since she was four. I guess the guilt factor was at work, since we broke down and paid for a real tree this year; left the sad, dusty fake one in its box in the basement. I love how the pine scent hits me as soon as I walk in the door. It is so worth it!

    When my siblings and I were younger, we had St. Nicholas day. Stockings were filled and left by our bedroom doors on the 6th of Dec. This is probably the result of my mom’s German heritage. Back then we lived in Florida and my Dad would “flock” the tree with this white spray stuff, meant to look like snow. I guess we were hoping for a white Christmas.

    Anyway, I loved your heartfelt story and hope you don’t mind me stopping by.

  109. Marnie says:

    Evergreen Christmas brought me to the misty edge of welling…sense some strong similiarities in our histories…however “imperfect or ordinary our ornaments” as you so aptly depicted, they represent the substance of our lives which is both “ordinary” and “extraordinary” …live is pretty amazing…I’m contacting my brother, Rob, to see if he has any old family ornaments…after the demise of my parents, I separated the photos for distribution…if the ornaments escaped the trash bin, he would have been the one that rescued them…one X’mas he surprised me, my sister and brother with framed drawings from mom…I’ve got to stop now…I’m starting to “well” again…thanks for your amazing gift of letting us see the magic in life…Happy New Year!!!

  110. Marnie says:

    Evergreen Christmas brought me to the misty edge of welling…sense some strong similiarities in our histories…however “imperfect or ordinary our ornaments” as you so aptly depicted, they represent the substance of our lives which is both “ordinary” and “extraordinary” …live is pretty amazing…I’m contacting my brother, Rob, to see if he has any old family ornaments…after the demise of my parents, I separated the photos for distribution…if the ornaments escaped the trash bin, he would have been the one that rescued them…one X’mas he surprised me, my sister and brother with framed drawings from mom…I’ve got to stop now…I’m starting to “well” again…thanks for your amazing gift of letting us see the magic in life…Happy New Year!!!

  111. Bethann says:

    For various reasons we couldn’t get the energy or “cheer” up to carry on the tradition of our family adventure to purchase a real tree. So, we settled for a 4 ft. pre-lit artificial one. On it we hung one ornament, our newest, one we found on vacation in Aruba. Every year we always try to add a new ornament, something with meaning, a memory. Last year it was a bright red high-heel ornament- in memory of my mom. Maybe next year the tradition will come back. We’ll buy the real tree and unpack the memories.
    Happy New Year!

  112. Bethann says:

    For various reasons we couldn’t get the energy or “cheer” up to carry on the tradition of our family adventure to purchase a real tree. So, we settled for a 4 ft. pre-lit artificial one. On it we hung one ornament, our newest, one we found on vacation in Aruba. Every year we always try to add a new ornament, something with meaning, a memory. Last year it was a bright red high-heel ornament- in memory of my mom. Maybe next year the tradition will come back. We’ll buy the real tree and unpack the memories.
    Happy New Year!

  113. Chris Bellezza says:

    Losing our family’s beloved pony in the weeks before Christmas cast a shadow of sorrow on this year’s holiday preparations. Instead of cutting a tree, we procrastinated and finally bought one off a lot just a few days before Christmas. It was a small tree, one that wouldn’t require as much effort to get in the house and to decorate as some of the more impressive trees we’ve had in years past. The decorated tree, twinkling in the family room, brought some cheer back to the house and soon after, the house was filled with boisterous relatives, brightening our moods even more. And on the tree, new this year…a beautiful white pony which looks so much like our pony that it takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes. Next year though, when we unpack that ornament, I know we’ll smile as we recall the many happy memories we have of that mischievous but sweet boy.

    Thanks Ann, for yet another beautiful and thought provoking story, and thanks to all for posting your thoughts too. Happy New Year!

  114. Chris Bellezza says:

    Losing our family’s beloved pony in the weeks before Christmas cast a shadow of sorrow on this year’s holiday preparations. Instead of cutting a tree, we procrastinated and finally bought one off a lot just a few days before Christmas. It was a small tree, one that wouldn’t require as much effort to get in the house and to decorate as some of the more impressive trees we’ve had in years past. The decorated tree, twinkling in the family room, brought some cheer back to the house and soon after, the house was filled with boisterous relatives, brightening our moods even more. And on the tree, new this year…a beautiful white pony which looks so much like our pony that it takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes. Next year though, when we unpack that ornament, I know we’ll smile as we recall the many happy memories we have of that mischievous but sweet boy.

    Thanks Ann, for yet another beautiful and thought provoking story, and thanks to all for posting your thoughts too. Happy New Year!

  115. Dammit, Ann, thanks for the yule log in my throat– I’m all weepy. I’m grateful I haven’t taken the tree down yet– I will note again what I can’t put into words in the moment and you SAY EXACTLY what I feel! Again! A tree is mingling of the living and the dead. It’s a living history of your lives as a family.

    I do have my favorite ornament from my family home in Omaha up there, near the top where no one can break it. It was sold at the Philips 66 station across from church and we would get them after mass. It was a styrofoam ball with silky threads clinging to it, making it seem satiny and smooth. My and my sister’s and mom’s job was to stick the ball with sequined pins and ribbons. Total 70′s Christmas glamour. I see that one and I get misty every year. Every week they would have a new style and we would clamor to get the new kit. Now if I could just see that Norelco ad on a black and white of Santa Claus sledding through a pine-treed hill….

  116. Dammit, Ann, thanks for the yule log in my throat– I’m all weepy. I’m grateful I haven’t taken the tree down yet– I will note again what I can’t put into words in the moment and you SAY EXACTLY what I feel! Again! A tree is mingling of the living and the dead. It’s a living history of your lives as a family.

    I do have my favorite ornament from my family home in Omaha up there, near the top where no one can break it. It was sold at the Philips 66 station across from church and we would get them after mass. It was a styrofoam ball with silky threads clinging to it, making it seem satiny and smooth. My and my sister’s and mom’s job was to stick the ball with sequined pins and ribbons. Total 70′s Christmas glamour. I see that one and I get misty every year. Every week they would have a new style and we would clamor to get the new kit. Now if I could just see that Norelco ad on a black and white of Santa Claus sledding through a pine-treed hill….

  117. Just beautiful is all I can say. My past Christmases were so lacking of the love you speak of that today
    I dread this time of year. Thanks for cheering me up. Jerry

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  121. Pat says:

    I am Ann’s oldest sister. Before Ann was born, we always had a live tree, and it sat in the living room not in the basement. For some reason, we put the tree up on Christmas Eve. We also for religious reasons took the tree down on Jan. 6th. Feast of the Epiphany. I have some of those ornaments, The fragile glass ones, I set out in a carnival glass bowl that was our mothers. I also have the styrofoam boots, and tree with beads that our Mom made. My granddaughter and her friend decorate out tree now, every year, I can tell them the stories of our antique ornaments.

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