The boys and I decorated the house for Christmas over the weekend. As I was handing them ornaments to hang on the tree I realized almost every one had a sweet story behind it or represented a stage in someone's life: my parents before they were divorced, when my great grandpa was alive, when my mom was a Brownie troop leader, etc.
Some ornaments were from my husband's family, others were from old friends. A few I remember excitedly hanging when I was little - like the Sesame Street charactors.
This year I hung up a Purdue University ornament I had given my dad a few years before he died. I found it still in the box when my sister and I were cleaning out his house after his death. This year will be nine years since my dad died of cancer; he was 48. My dad passed on December 1 and I can remember that Christmas being so awful. My sister and I were drowning in sadness and grief. No gift, no holiday song, or perfectly lit tree could put a true smile on my face that Christmas season.
It wasn't that my dad and I had this awesome, healthy relationship and some holiday tradition we shared wasn't the same without him. To be 25 years old and watch cancer take your dad's life - it was an intense life lesson that I had yet to digest. After he died I felt like I was standing on one leg. To say I was "wobbly" for quite some time is an understatement.
I kept a lot of my dad's things - the Purdue ornament, his harmonica, his watch, etc. My favorite is a book of matches from the bar his parents owned off of Halsted called Jack's Tiny Tap.
I always say I'm going to put these things into shadow boxes or whatever but there is something comforting about picking up these items - feeling them, smelling them, remembering how they felt in my hands as a child. I had the same warm feeling when we were decorating the tree. There is something about me picking up the same ornaments I had hung when I was Brant's age and handing them to my boys just as my mom did with me; it's soothing to the soul.
Christmas 2002 is a sad memory but not neccesarily something I want to push into a dusty, dark corner. It makes me appreciate the joy I have in my heart today. It reminds me how important it is to let people in your life know how much you love them. It helps me remember how strong I can be. These days you would not know I ever felt "wobbly" on my one leg. Or how often I fell over - many times not wanting to get back up. Nowdays, I can do cartwheels. And you know who is cheering the loudest about that? My dad.