Christmas went up tonight at my house. I had an annoying appointment with a doctor this afternoon and then had to deal with an almost-flat tire, and decided to ditch the holiday party I was going to attend downtown. I just wasn’t in the mood for being festive in company. I needed to nest.
So I came home and dragged out the boxes. Everything is always packed away neatly and it’s a surprise to see how much there is when I open the green storage boxes and start unpacking things. Everything has a memory – except the tree itself. That came from Walmart for $39 two years ago, is pre-wired with lights, and goes up fast. But everything else has meaning.
The Nativity Scene came back with me from Spain in 1974 and is showing a bit of wear and tear. Some of the shepherds have lost an arm or hand and one of the fuzzy sheep broke a leg last year (I mended it with super glue). But they are treasured memories of shopping at the Plaza Mayor with friends, carefully selecting the nacimiento that I would bring home.
Each figure comes out of the wrappings and is assembled in a particular order. I was instructed by the 4-year old grandson of the family I lived with that the donkey goes behind Mary and Mary is on the left and Joseph is on the right in the stable in front of the cow – with the baby, of course, in the middle. The kings go in an order, too, but I don’t usually get that right, although I do match up the right camel driver with the right king, based on turban color. I can color-coordinate.
I have a big gourd Santa that came from an arts festival in Utah and a little white ceramic caroler that came from a trip to Nova Scotia. A stained glass Christmas tree (with presents) now graces my kitchen window, a find from the Christmas Tree Shoppe. Under the tree is the Santa my grandmother made 55 years ago when my parents celebrated their first Christmas together. He’s a bit fragile now but it’s not Christmas without him.
The tree itself is covered with special ornaments; I don’t have a single “normal” looking glass ball in the lot. As I unwrapped each one, I remembered the place I got it or the person who gave it to me. I collect ornaments precisely as a way to remember. There is the silver unicorn from my godmother, a little beeswax bear from VA 20 years ago, a Victorian lady in a red velvet dress and a wax face that was a gift from a colleague, a little plastic ball decorated by my nieces and nephews when they were little, and so many more.
Others represent places I’ve traveled – the little fez from Morroco, a silver angel from Canada, a Santa from Georgia, a cuckoo clock from Switzerland, a sparkly seashell from Sunset Beach, a big Santa face from Germany, a little ice cube face from Chicago. They all bring back memories and go up with love.
The place is kind of a wreck. Christmas may be up but I need to find places to put the things that Christmas displaces for the season it lives here. It’s worth the bother to have things around me that have meaning and memories and bring me joy.