I have always been adamantly opposed to putting up a Christmas tree in November. This year, though, I really wanted to decorate for Christmas early.

“Bring on the shine and the joy!” I thought.

We went and picked out a tree yesterday. As a single woman, lugging the tree off of the top of my car and carrying it into the house myself brings me some perverse satisfaction. It’s really not that hard to do, but it is one of those things, like using the grill and taking out the trash, that somehow always fell into the category of “manly jobs” during my marriage (though that does hold some irony now).

We put the tree up and planned to decorate it today. When it came time to get the decorations out, I found myself holding my breath a bit. Dad collapsed just two days after Christmas last year. It’s hard not to muddy that stress and sadness together with the sights and sounds of Christmas.

I reminded myself of what I’d written just last week on Thanksgiving – this season is going to stir up a lot of feelings – joy, anger, sadness, nostalgia, gratitude…and I have to be okay with honoring them all.

I will welcome them all to the holiday table. 

As the girls and I began to sort through the decorations and ornaments, I couldn’t find the massive tangle of Christmas lights. Every year I pull them out and curse myself for not having a better system for removing and storing them. They look like a massive squirrel’s nest, and it takes me forever to detangle them.

“That’s weird,” I thought. “No lights? What could I have done with them?”

I racked my brain to try to remember where I could have put them. Finally, Ruby pulled out a compact, perfected spooled wreath of Christmas lights.

How the hell did that happen? 

Then I remembered…it was Lynette. One night in early January while I was sleeping in the ICU with dad, she took down Christmas for me. Without a word, she had put away all of the decorations. She had taken down the tree.

She had rolled my Christmas lights into a perfect bundle. 

That’s really all it took to shift my mood….just that little reminder that we are never alone, the girls and I. We have amazing people who love us. People who take care of us without being asked, and sometimes in ways we had never even considered.

Hello Gratitude, welcome to the holiday table.

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