There’s one remaining piece of a large tree branch sitting at the back of my yard, leftover from a pile of trimmings that were cleaned up more than a year ago. It was easily missed and I only noticed it was still there months after the job was done. I rarely visit the back of my huge yard, except to take out the trash and that’s usually when I’m also getting ready to go somewhere else and not taking time to observe anything near the path.
This little log isn’t in my way, and the two or three times I’ve seen it laying there, I’ve thought I should pick it up and toss it but I don’t. It’s not a priority, it doesn’t appear to be in the way of my lawn care guy – the grass is always neatly trimmed even though this log never seems to get moved.
Today while standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes I observed a man in the alley trimming a neighbour’s trees and loading pieces into a truck, and I thought about my log. It’s out there covered in snow (until I brushed some off for the photo) and sitting above the surrounding area just enough that it’s visible from the house. And I wondered what I could do with it; the first idea that came to mind was a cool crafty Christmas decoration, like a few I made ages ago with scrolls of the sheet music for Silent Night printed on parchment colored paper rolled up and attached to the wood with big red ribbons …
And then it happened.
You see, it doesn’t actually have to be Christmas for my mind to be swept away by all the little Christmas things that used to be part of our lives.
Before I go on, this isn’t a Christmas post in January. It’s isn’t meant to make people feel sorry for me and I already know about and appreciate the real meaning of Christmas; this is about human experience, not religion.
When you’ve grown up with and carried over into your own family the many fun and happy experiences of nearly half a century of Christmases shared and then something changes, something goes away forever, and nothing comes into that space to bring about a new joy, there is sadness and emptiness.
Families change over years. Usually they’re growing, first with children being born and raised, then with marriages and grandchildren. Traditions are started and passed on. Most of the time the changes are happy ones.
I used to love getting ready for Christmas, crafting up all sorts of new things to decorate the house and make everything fun and exciting for my kids and my husband. I was the happy little Christmas homemaker! It gave me joy to prepare and sew and bake and turn the house into a jolly space.
Of course, once our kids were grown up, some of that naturally changed and mellowed, and there are no grandchildren yet so our celebrations had already become more about fun social interaction and lots of fancy food treats than about waiting for Santa.
But now that Pat is gone, we seem to be in a strange place. The things that used to be exciting about Christmas – getting together with family and friends, sharing meals, playing games – also happen at other times of the year that aren’t so closely associated with the big annual event that brings on emotions, stress, and at times, at least for me, confusion.
My brain wants me to remember it and to feel about it the way I always felt, but my heart seems to need a quiet, relaxed time with no pressures or expectations, no hurry, no pomp and circumstance. I want to enjoy it, but then get on with things and not drag it out. It’s nothing anyone else can change or fix and it doesn’t matter how many people I see or don’t see over the holidays. Christmas comes, I laugh, I cry, and then it goes.
Obviously I do want to see my family and friends, and I’m able now to get into the spirit of Christmas to a certain extent, especially since my daughter loves to bake and decorate herself so I try to put in a good effort. I think my son likes the meals and snacks the most and whether or not we had a tree probably wouldn’t matter to him! But in general, I often have as much or more fun and enjoyment with them on other days of the year to which there are no strings attached.
Of course, I still want to celebrate Christmas, but it won’t ever be the same and the part of me that’s waiting for that just needs to catch up. Some of it is middle age and learning that many of what I saw as Christmas experiences can really be enjoyed any time at all. Some of it is the fact that our family has grown smaller rather than larger. And some of it is because he isn’t here anymore to share it with me, with us.
So while I might have snatched up that little log and turned it into something cute several years back, I think I’m just going to let it sit there for now. And one day, if the right idea strikes me, it will become something beautiful. It has potential and it sparks memories, so it’s already more than just a log.