It is just over a week until Christmas Eve. The presents have all been bought and wrapped. I packed and shipped the gifts for my son and daughter-in-law in Oregon and for our former foreign exchange student and her family in Japan. For my brother and sister and their families in Idaho and our friends in California I ordered edible (or consumables as my eco-conscious son calls them) gifts and had them sent directly from the vendor. Christmas cards and letters to nearly 80 friends and family members have trickled out in the mail stream over the past two weeks as I finished personal notes on each. I made and froze several dozen tamales for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, a tradition that began nearly two decades ago when we lived in California. (Although I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that when the tradition started I procured the tamales from a woman at our church, Anna Herrera, who made and sold them each year so that she would have a little extra money to buy gifts for her own family). My husband put up the Christmas lights before the first hard freeze (it’s a Maine thing) and little by little the other decorations have made their way into the house.
I had more of an incentive to get these holiday preparations done early this year as my daughter will be home for Christmas. I want to be able to spend quality time with her when she is here rather than run around trying to tie up loose ends. Her last couple of weeks haven’t been easy and almost none of that was due to the approaching holiday. You see, she is in the Navy and her most recent assignment was to an aircraft carrier where her job was a catapult officer or “shooter”. She has been on deployment since October when the ship left it’s home port of Bremerton, WA. She will be starting a new assignment after the first of the year in San Diego and was fortunate to have been granted leave the last two weeks of December. That meant getting a flight off the ship to Bahrain and then a military transport to Virginia. And that was only the beginning, In the end she will have traveled over 12,000 miles in the course of 8 days (with layovers) before she arrives at the Bangor Airport later this week. If she can do all that to be home with us for the holidays, the least I can do is to free up my time so we can just be together.
One of my favorite holiday tasks every year is buying and decorating the tree. It is also usually one of the last, as we like the tree to be fresh and beautiful until I undress it and put away the ornaments on News Years day with football games providing the soundtrack. Our ornaments are not fancy and most help to tell the story of our lives. There are a few that I inherited from my folk that are as old as I am. The rest are ones we began collecting as we started our lives together in the 80s. Many are homemade. There is the oversized Christmas stocking ornaments that my mom made for the kids on the year each was born. Don’s mom was “crafty” as well and provided us with crocheted snowflakes, needlepoint bears and stuffed santas. We have lots of ornaments that our son and daughter made at school when they were young. I cherish each one. When we travel we don’t buy a lot of expensive souvenirs, but we do buy Christmas ornaments as mementos from our trips. There is the felted elk from the Grand Canyon, the soft blue-footed booby from the Galapagos, the wooden nativity from New Zealand, and the jute chameleon from Madagascar and so many more. we have collected a number of handcrafted ceramic “angels” that were made by the monks at St. Andrews Abbey near where we lived in Southern California. Other ornaments came to us as gifts from family or friends. They are the first to make it on the tree and command places of honor and visibility. They help bring context and joy to the season. These ornaments evoke wonderful memories of our lives and are more beautiful to me than any fancy, color- coordinated, commercial tree. Merry Christmas!