Yesterday it snowed here in Utah. I’m guessing this will probably be our last snow in the valley (although, sometimes we get surprise snow storms as late as May, so who knows), and already it felt like a spring snow, not a winter one. I walked outside to feel the cold air. The still-naked trees bent a little with the weight, and with every breath or step I took, a little flurry would fall down. I felt like my trees were throwing snowballs at them. (I know I might sound nutty but I don’t care: I love my trees. They know I love them and they each have a different spirit.)
Spring is coming.
I’m itching for warmer days, when I can come home from a morning run, make a protein shake, and then work in my yard. Weeding and pruning and planting some new flowers, greeting the perennials as they take turns blooming. I’m looking forward to bright yellow daffodils and that bright, happy fragrance of hyacinth flowers.
But before spring happens, I want to look back and record this winter. It was an important one in my life history and I don’t want to forget the details. Because of all that’s happened in the past three months, I haven’t had much blogging time. But I’m going to make time over the next few days to write about the last three months of winter.
First off, Christmas. This Christmas was so different from any Christmas we’ve had before. Partly this is because I was having a dark spell with my depression. Partly it was because of how my family is changing. Haley stayed in Colorado because of work and travel expenses, and her greatest need was help paying for her med school applications. I made a Christmas quilt for her (because she wasn’t putting up a tree and I thought it would be nice to have something Christmasy in their apartment…but that backfired because I didn’t get it done fast enough), and sent some other things, but her gift was money. Nathan was leaving for basic training the week after Christmas, so he didn’t need anything. So mostly I shopped for Jake and Kaleb. It took almost no time at all to wrap gifts this year, and Christmas morning was so low-key, as no one woke up until 11:00.
In early December, on the night we put up the tree, I got in an argument with Kendell. (Glad this happened after the tree was up and we had a fun time with the five of us together decorating it.) He had been teasing me about how there were too many ornaments to fit on the tree. And I didn’t even mention the other box of ornaments I hadn’t even brought out. This lit a spark in me (because really…almost no argument in a marriage is ever only REALLY about the argument’s topic) because of what the ornaments represented. Not just the Santas and stockings and bears and angels and snowflakes themselves, but tradition, and time, and a last little bit of myself as a young mother. So once we got to a spot where there was really no point in talking anymore, I went for a drive in the mountains. I stood outside and looked at the stars and the cliffs against the midnight-dark sky and I cried and then I processed. Why was that little bit of teasing so intensely painful? What did it mean?
When Haley was a baby, I bought an ornament at a craft fair, a little ceramic tennis shoe with her name painted on it, and thus I started the tradition of giving my kids an ornament every Christmas. I did this because my Christmas tree was so bare. I had made some quilted balls when we were first married, and I had some bells and a few other little things, but my tree had almost nothing on it. I bought that little shoe thinking of our future Christmases together, and how each year we’d add more, and then my tree wouldn’t be naked. It would be full of memories. But I also started it so that when my kids grew up and had their own trees, they could start with memories from their childhood Christmases and then go from there. My intention was always to give them their ornaments when they were ready for them.
A few years ago, I realized something: as each kid became an adult and took their ornaments, my tree would be bare again. So, I started watching for ornaments for myself as well. Mostly angels. And as more years passed, and each year at least four (but usually five or six) more ornaments were added, the tree did start getting crowded.
So here we are, twenty-something years later, and my kids are adults but they’re not ready for their ornaments yet. (Which is 100% totally fine, no guilt-trip intended.) And the tradition I started so long ago stopped making sense. Kaleb really didn’t care. Nathan didn’t care. Jake didn’t care. It just wasn’t a big deal to them.
So in December 2018, I bought exactly zero new ornaments.
And the modifying of traditions didn’t stop there. I also gave up on Christmas Eve pajamas. And sibling gifts on Christmas Eve. I didn’t decorate the banister in my kitchen and I got out only about half of my decorations. And while there was sadness in this transitional Christmas, there was also a sense of…relief, maybe. Christmas and all it entails has been one of my favorite parts of being a mom. I did as much as I could to make it magical for my kids and I loved doing it. But it is also stressful. Because let’s face it: I am not a magical person. Santa has bajillions of elves and magic to help him. I just have me. And I think for the last couple of Christmases, I was continuing to make the magic because I felt I needed to, not necessarily because my kids needed it. They still need (and Kaleb, as the youngest, still deserves) a happy Christmas morning. But it is OK to be in this place, when things are changing. It is OK to adjust traditions and take some away and add some new ones. And I am grateful I was able to process enough to see my way through.