Growing up, our family always had an artificial tree. My brother had asthma and we couldn’t have a real tree.
Every year, it would come down from the attic to be set up branch by branch. I loved our tree. I didn’t know what it was like otherwise.
So, for me, that tradition continued year after year.
And as I grew older, and my daughter grew older, we had many special ornaments collected either by gift, made, or handed down. We displayed them on our family’s artificial tree.
I, also, had ornaments from when Sydney was born – baby first’s Christmas. And even, our first year married ornament with her Dad. I kept them all. And we put them all up on the tree every year.
It is rich to remember what each ornament means, or who it came from. Not to mention all those knickknacks collected; a lighted gingerbread house, an advent calendar made of cloth in the shape of a tree, and all my snowmen.
You know what I’m talking about. Those things that mean so much, and make so many memories every year.
In 2007, on a snowy day in April, when I, and some very dear friends helped me move away from a very abusive man I was married to. A man who nearly broke me mentally. Not to mention all the pain he caused my young daughter as she saw her mom’s sanity flee from his verbal beatings and paranoia.
We moved in two hours (while he was away), and should have had more time, but he changed his plans and came home early. He caught us moving my things out and he was not too happy about that. He showed his displeasure by carrying around a baseball bat, screaming at me, glaring at the kind people helping, and then proceeding to rip the garage door off its hinges in effort to keep us out. He stood at that bent garage door with rage in his eyes, telling me… I BROKE THE DOOR. I was paying for that! I’m not sure if it dawned on him at least ten witnesses watched him break the door.
I will never forget how he looked as the car backed out of my driveway for the last time. He looked crazy.
I never got back in that house, nor anything else from it. We realized too late, all my Christmas stuff was left in the attic. ALL of it. Every single piece from my childhood, from Sydney’s childhood, from my mom, and my dad. All gone.
It really did. I risked contacting him to plead for it back. I risked meeting him somewhere public to get those things. Things I could never replace.
He would promise to meet me, but never show up.
April turned to May, May raced to October when my dream house he lived in was foreclosed on. He moved to whoknowswhere, and my Christmas things were gone for good.
Christmas rolled around that year, we didn’t have a tree or any decorations. I couldn’t afford to buy any more. It took all the money I had to move out that previous spring.
A sweet co-worker brought some ornaments from her deceased mother’s house to give to me. My mother started gifting me new things to collect. And someone else at work said they thought they might have an extra tree.
That Christmas was so hard. I was free. My daughter was free, but the losses weighed heavy on us.
One of my childhood friends was very concerned. Every time I talked to her, she said, “Do you have a tree yet?” I’d sadly answer, “Not yet, but we’ll get one. I promise.” I knew she wanted to help, but how can you get over something like that?
I finally had to tell myself…….they were just things. Nothing else. I had Sydney, and Sydney had me, and we were HAPPY. The material things we could live without. The important thing is we had each other, and we were healthy.
The next day, there was a knock at my door. It was my childhood friend and her husband. Her husband was carrying a big box, and bags to the front door.
Staring out through the open door, I was so surprised to see them. “Merry Christmas!” he hollered and set down the box with a brand new seven foot pre-lit tree. The bags contained decorations for the tree, and a wreath for the front door.
I was stunned.
They insisted it was some old tree they dragged out of their attic, but the box was brand new, and unopened.
I am not sure if they know just how deeply their kindness touched our lives that Christmas. It wasn’t just a Christmas tree that walked in the door. Hope walked through, and set up in our living room. Hope opened it’s branches to new traditions, and new ornaments. And a new life for us.
The first thing I bought was an ornament from Hallmark. It read Our first Christmas 2007 , for me and Sydney that is what it was. We started over and started new traditions. One of those was to make new ornaments for the tree.
The first year we made little stained glass ornaments.
The second year we drew on ceramic balls. The third year we painted snowmen.
We worked and worked to create new meanings, and new ornaments. We used a lot of crafts, but we used our love most of all.
I still have that tree, and I put it up every year with all the ornaments we made, and collected.
I no longer think of all I lost on Christmas, but I embrace all that I gained.