Last year I didn’t put up a Christmas tree because everybody said they didn’t want to do it and they didn’t care. And then on Christmas Eve they all pouted. Imagine my surprise when Ari, 20, announced he would be getting a tree.
“Taryn and I are going to put it up and decorate it,” he said. Ah. Taryn is his new girlfriend, and he’s still in that mode where he asks her if she likes a jacket before he buys it, watches movies she picks out and lets her steal all his sweatshirts. I like this phase, and I make the most of it. If you want your sons to do something, you just ask their girlfriends to ask them.
As the two of them went off in search of a precut Canadian Tire forest, I hauled the decorations up from the basement. I’ve bought the boys a decoration each year since they were born, something my mother did for me. I also still have the remaining ornaments my Mom brought from England in the early 1950s, and each year I realize how fragile they are as I try to ignore how faded they are becoming. I’ve kept all the primary school art, made with as much macaroni as love.
Yet each year there are fewer; a couple get jostled and shatter, glue gives way or glass parts snap. It doesn’t matter how carefully I wrap them, I’m reminded that nothing lasts forever.
Christmas dinner will be at our home. I will make a giant turkey and my sisters, Rozzy and Gilly, will do everything else. The three of us grew up here, and while it’s been lovely going to their places the past few years, I’m also reminded the remaining Christmases here are probably numbered. As the kids get older I notice almost daily this will soon be too much house. I can think of no better place I could have raised the boys, but nothing lasts forever.
I’ve been sorting through boxes of old photos, trying to put some semblance of order to nearly a century of pictures. With some, I am absolutely clueless as to whom I’m looking at; I’m reduced to matching a year to a car in the background, or vegetation to a prairie. I wish my parents were around to solve the mysteries, to knit the tenuous connections to people I’m sure I’m related to. My heart flips a little when I find one of Mom or Dad, years before they met, in a picture taken by someone I’ll never know.
I’ve become a censor of sorts. I hate the pictures of both of them when they were sick. I don’t know who this broken down old man is; my father was robust and loud and strong. My mother somehow filled a frame with her softness, and I understand why children were drawn to her. These later pictures are like those faded ornaments, those broken treasures that I can’t part with because my memory sees them whole. Nothing lasts forever.
As we decorated the tree, I fell into my Mom’s pattern of telling the history behind each piece. They’re new to Taryn, and Ari pretended to be embarrassed by things I know he’s glad I’ve hung onto. Like those photos, these ornaments are the true spirit of this family; each one, no matter how damaged, is still important. The best thing I’ll ever give my boys is words. We need to tell the stories over the years because so much gets torn from you; you pretend there will be a time you will be ready.
Nothing lasts forever.