Ah, trimming the tree.
A lovely ritual. Rich with tradition and chock full of memories.
These sweet memories can quickly turn to land mines for a widowed person.
I will never forget the first Christmas after Bob died. Rosie cheeked from our trek through the woods to cut down the tree, plus the effort it took to haul it in the house and get it in the stand, Henry, Arthur and I (plus Bob's sisters....bless their souls) plunged into the carefully packed ornament bins.
As a side note I should mention that the bins had been packed by Bob the year before. I know this because nothing I packed was ever careful. I am more of a 'just get the stuff in there' kind of a packer. The first time Bob and I had to pack and move anywhere I thought we might not make it as a couple as he looked on in disgust, packing paper in hand, while I threw kitchen appliances willy nilly into a box with abandon.
I will freely admit that on that first Christmas without Bob I was already emotionally fragile embarking on the tree trimming without my light hanging guy. But, for the children, I bravely opened the first bin with feigned glee. There, neatly folded on the top of the pile, was a cheery red, white and green knit stocking with 'Bob' across the top.
ugh! Really? Really Bob? You had to put your stocking on the top?
Well, for me, it was down hill from that point. Each ornament I dutifully unwrapped and handed to Henry's eager tiny hand seemed to hold a memory of a trip Bob and I had gone on together. I felt compelled to share each story with the group, as if I might forget where each ornament was obtained now that Bob was not with me to reminisce.
"This cardinal was from our honeymoon in Bayfield, this tree we got when we went to San Francisco one Christmas, this cow your Uncle Eugene sent us the first Christmas we lived in Oregon, this one your dad and I bought when we went to Mt. St. Helens, it's made out of the ash from the eruption........"
That first tree trimming was difficult to say the least. Each ornament on the tree was another stab at my wounded heart. I wondered if I would ever be able to gaze at the Christmas tree with a whole, light heart again.
A couple years later there came the first tree trimming that Mike and I and our newly blended family did together.
More land mines.
Could I tell the story of the cardinal ornament purchased on Bob and my honeymoon to the group? While I contemplated this question Henry went ahead and joyfully told the story of the cardinal ornament he had been listening to the past several years.
Fast forward several more years to this year, 2011, another tree trimming. Henry (11) dives for the ornament box labeled 'Irene and Bob' and carefully begins to unwrap the neatly packed items within. (yes, I neatly packed them :-)) Sam (13) finds the box marked 'Mike and Irene' and begins to unpack the ornaments that Mike has given me as gifts the last few years. Someone else finds the 'McHoganStein' ornament my sister gave us our first Christmas as a merged family and up on the tree it goes.
"Where is the Mt St. Helen's ornament?" Sam asks, looking around the tissue strewn living room, "oh, here it is." He hands the smooth, round, grayish blue ornament to me and I find the perfect place on the tree for it, in between the infamous cardinal and the mustard yellow glass heart Mike gave me last year.
Later that night, after the boxes were put away and the kids were in bed I sat on the couch sipping some red wine and gazed at the tree for a bit. The 'Bob and Irene' ornaments hung next to the "Mike and Irene' ornaments as if they were always meant to hang on that tree together.
Life does move forward, against all odds and sometimes against our will, it moves boldly forward.
My heart feels whole.
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