It feels wonderful to finally have a chill in the air. Winter is on the way. The seasons are changing once again. I love this time of year. The air is cleaner, the stars brighter. We don’t have to mow the lawn, and, if we’ve been good, we can look forward to Santa coming.
Jeff and I put our tree up early this year. Can you believe it? It’s still November. But I have a good reason. My son and his family are coming next week from Nebraska. It will be the first time in quite a while he’ll be in California in December. They will be with us in Martinez for a couple of days before we all head to Mariposa for Christmas. I remembered to hang the soft ornaments on the bottom half of the tree! I’m looking forward to watching our 18 month old granddaughter Betsy wake to an early Santa arrival. I hope she likes what Santa brings!
When I was growing up, our family practice was to buy a Douglas fir tree the week before Christmas. After work, Mama picked my kid sister Johnette and me up from the babysitter’s and we went to the local Boy Scout Christmas tree lot. Our tree was less than four feet tall because it had to stand on a white sheet covered coffee table. Then we pushed the coffee table in front of the living room window. Mama strung the lights on the tree, then sat down with a cup of tea while Johnette and I decorated.
Johnette and I took the ornaments out of the boxes one by one and hung them just so. We had our favorites that we insisted on hanging personally. I liked the plastic bird cages with silver discs inside that rotated with the heat from the string of lights. After the ornaments were in place, the hard part came next – tinsel. My mother was a stickler for putting the tinsel on artistically – one strand at a time. The silver threads had to lie over the branch just so. When we were finished we would turn off all the room lights and stand back to admire our sparkling work of joy. It was amazing how beautiful our trees always were.
The first autumn after my mother passed away it fell to me to divide up the Christmas ornaments between the four of us sisters. Most of the ornaments were old. The paint on the glass bulbs was chipped in many places. The tiny glass walnut ornaments had lost their tops. There were just enough plastic bird cages for each of us sisters to have one. They may not have been the most beautiful ornaments but they were ours and part of our family tradition. To this day, that bird cage ornament goes on my tree.
My kids know all about my special ornament. They took turns each year hanging it. It has to hang over a light bulb to make the disc spin. They still look for it when they come home for Christmas which is not as often as I’d like. It’s not easy to travel long distances with small children. Jeff and I totally understand that, being parents of children who used to be small. So Jeff and I do the traveling. Our children take turns hosting the Roubal Christmas, which may or may not actually be on Christmas day. Last year we met in Nebraska, next year we will travel to Washington State. This year Marion is hosting us in Mariposa.
As I was decorating our tree in Martinez this week, I got to wondering. What Christmas decorations do our own children have fond memories of? Our little Air Force family has lived in Japan, Germany, Korea, and New Jersey and has decorations to reflect our travels. A wax Nuremburg angel sits atop our tree. Intricate Japanese temari thread balls dangle and Korean papier mache folk figures nestle amongst the branches. We made annual trips to see the Nutcracker Ballet and picked up an ornament each time. Clara, Herr Drosselmeyer, the Mouse King, Russian, Spanish, Arabian and Chinese dancers as well as the Nutcracker Prince grace our tree. Of course, our tree also has many ornaments made in elementary schools and in scout programs. Decorating our tree is like living our lives in review, without tinsel.
Betsy is too young to understand the stories behind our ornaments, but I’m pretty sure she’s going to like my little bird cage. I imagine her eyes will sparkle as bright as the little silver disk when she sees it twirl and swirl in the light.
Our son and his family will be in California next week to complete the gift he gave his father last Christmas. It was the ultimate gift, a gift that keeps on giving. Eddy gave Jeff a “Golden Ticket,” good for a marathon anywhere in the United States in 2018. Yup. Jeff is going to run a marathon with Eddy and our daughter Marion in Sacramento next weekend. Sounds more like torture to me, but there’s sentiment behind the gift.
Jeff and I started with one small box of my mother’s ornaments that first Christmas we were married. Then our first child arrived and we added bright happy ornaments. As our family grew, so did the number of decorations. We now have eight tubs of decorations.
It was fun to decorate the house, make cookies and sing songs together. The excitement rose until it was almost unbearable by Christmas Eve. I think I looked forward to Christmas morning more than our children did. I loved the excited oohs and awes as they opened gifts from Santa. But, just like the seasons change, so do the times of our lives. Its time our children take their childhood memories home with them. German, Korean, and Japanese ornaments belong on their trees now. I have boxes for them to fill. The bird cage will stay with me. They can draw straws when I’m gone.
It is our children’s turn to feel that warmth and heart busting joy of anticipation and watching their own children on Christmas morning. It’s their season now.