I feel like the Christmas/Yule I celebrate this year is bigger than its Christian or secular meanings. Bigger even, than its roots twined in the pagan practices of the solstice. And I need its magic more this year than I’ve ever needed it before. It’s the time of the year when I can look strangers in the eye and dream of peace on earth and goodwill to all men. That has been a long damn time coming. Frankly, two months ago I wasn’t sure we’d ever feel that way about each other again.
That dream is important. I plan to use our peaceful energy of the season to project positive thoughts, to energize my heart and get past the sadness of loved ones who are no longer with me, or cannot be nearby to celebrate. It would be all too easy to become overwhelmed with missing them and not care about the holidays.
We would walk together through the trees until we found just the right tree, the one that called to come home with us. The workers chopped our tree down and we all carried it back to the workshop.
While we sipped hot cocoa, the workers squared the trunk so it would sit straight in its stand, trimmed the lowest-hanging branches, and ran the tree through an efficient “bagging net” machine. Then we loaded our bagged tree onto the roof of our car and tied it on securely. The whole house smelled deliciously of pine when we put the tree up in the house.
These days, however, we have a beautiful, but artificial Christmas tree. Live tree farms are a luxury of the past, and the cut trees on the Christmas tree lots in Arizona dry out immediately and become fire hazards.
I still love the family day of decorating the tree, even if often now it’s just me saying, “Hey, Goggle, play some holiday music” and digging in by myself.
I unwrap the ornaments from their boxes and spread them out on the sofa and harvest table. It’s a living collage of several generations.
A tin man with jointed legs and arms from my grandpa.
We still have a half-dozen pink frosted balls from a collection my husband’s second wife bought when they were newlyweds. (I’m wife #3). For 29 years, I’ve been planning to throw them out, but it hasn’t happened.
Then there are the fragile, blown-glass ornaments I bought for my mother as a girl: A bell, a sailing ship. Those go near the top of the tree, away from little hands. Displayed more prominently than he’d like are all the ornaments our son Ian made in grade school (I’ll bet a lot of you have little hands traced in felt).
Mom’s quiet love of her own tree, and her hugs when I came out to breakfast, sleepy-eyed, on Christmas morning. In later years, her joy when my own family came to visit on Christmas Eve, laden with packages. She and Dad were so happy to have Paul join our little family. (I think they were getting worried. I married at 40).
I have many happy memories of my friend Lisa and her mother Lily spending Christmas Eve at my parents, and, more recently, at our Arizona home. Another fond memory (now at least) was Ian’s first Christmas, belly down across his grandma’s knees (he was a colicky baby). And later, playing on the living room floor in front of the tree, ankle deep in Lego pieces. Shooting off his new rocket in Red Bridge Park, running around like 9-year-olds do, and yelling, “Come on, Mom. Hurry!”
Now Ian will soon be teaching his own son to love rockets. Maybe not yet, he’s five, and even more impetuous than his dad. But soon, along with all those Lego sets he has meticulously stored away.
Putting up the Yule tree has turned into a moving meditation as I work my way backwards, through this year’s sadness and into the joy of every happy memory I have built into the foundation of my own holiday spirit.
As I hang the ornaments on the tree, I call those memories into my finger tips and place them on their spot on the tree with purpose.
I remind myself that in the dark days of winter, in the worst year in memory, the light is coming. My tree becomes not just a living memory, but an invocation of hope. The weaving of memories and love becomes a spell to lift my heart.
We think the spell, we touch the love, and the power unlocks.
Merry Christmas all, and Happy Yule.