Friday, December 17, 2010

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Just a few days ago I was in the kitchen making soup for my grandchildren as they were drawing pictures on the dry erase board at the table. My granddaughter was humming and singing as she worked on her drawing of baby Jesus. Taking a break, I stepped over to the table to see their projects and Ellis, age 6, asked me a question. What's the name of the song that goes..."you will get a sentimental feeling when you hear?" and proceeded to sing as much of the song as she knew. I had to think for a moment, since she hadn't begun with the first words of the song. "Oh, that's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," I said and sang it from the beginning for her.

Realizing she knew the rest of the words, she started again, singing with a touch of Elvis in her voice. "You will get a "' when you hear,voices singin let's be jolly, Deck the halls with boughs of ho..oll..y." She has a very sweet voice and sang right on key but I confess the only word I really heard her sing at that point was "sentimental." At first I thought what a big word for most six year olds. But then, I immediately thought of how she shows tendencies of being as sentimental as myself at times. According to the dictionary, it is a "passionate or emotional response to an idea, thought, or event." It was only moments before I thought of something that had taken place just a week before producing a sentimental response in my heart. Only a few feet away from where we were standing, we'd been gathered around my Christmas tree with other family  members taking a sentimental journey through the years.

We had a surprise visit from my son Kurt and his wife Sheena and my youngest grandson Davis. They live about two hours away and we are always extremely excited to have them come and spend time with us. I felt Christmas had arrived early at my house as I watched all three of my grandchildren playing near my Christmas tree that day. I wanted to soak up the joy I was feeling so that one day I might return to this day in my memory and experience it again. There's just something about a Christmas tree with lights and a child's fascination with its decor that make my heart fill with joy. I'm not ashamed to admit I get sentimental feelings throughout the Christmas holidays. Simply watching my grandchildren around my tree can summon an emotional response and memories of my days as a young mother or even my childhood memories of Christmas.

When they were about to leave I invited my grandchildren to choose one ornament from my tree to take home for their own Christmas trees. A conversation ensued as my son asked, "Where's the ornament I made at school with my picture in it?" Even though my children have passed the age of 30, their 3rd and 6th grade pictures still grace my tree every year. As the grandchildren walked around and around trying to make up their minds, we adults were discussing individual ornaments and how they came to be a part of my collection. From tiny angels riding on sleighs to Santas wearing football gear and apples for the teacher from my teaching days, my Christmas tree is like a map taking me through the last 35 years of my life. I even admitted to the children that certain ornaments once ignited negative memories of the past but now hold a special place in my heart and continue to find a special place on my tree.

Some ornaments bring back memories of hard times and times of loss. Others are reminders of the beautiful times we've spent together as a family. There are memories of my children and I tramping through the Christmas tree farm to cut our own special tree and Christmas mornings when they were teens sitting close to each other on the love seat trying to wake up...he in his Hornets hoodie and she in her pjs. For a sentimental person like myself, the Christmas tree is like a book that opens each Christmas to tell a story of our lives. "Here's the one Mamaw gave me when I was little." "I don't remember this one but I DO remember 'that girl' in 3rd grade gave me this one."  "I've got Mamaw's first topper on my tree now."

"Which one do you choose?" I finally asked my grandchildren who were having difficulty making a decision. "I'll take the Oreo cookie," and "I want this little bear," they replied. My son choseone of his childhood ornaments, a soccer player, for his son Davis. Hours later, when I was alone and looking at the tree with all its twinkling lights, I found myself continuing that sentimental journey through the years. Baby's 1st Christmas... the toy soldier dated 1976....the reindeer that belonged to my own grandmother...the homemade beaded ornament and gift from a college friend.

About a week later, I stepped into my grandson's bedroom to say goodnight. "Look Neenie, the Oreo cookie!' It was proudly displayed on the front of his personal tree in his bedroom. "And look at that one Neenie... and the one over there." And a new chapter in the story begins.  Each ornament on my tree seems to bear loving fingerprints turning the pages as each year of my story unfolds. No one knows what a year will hold as they pack away the tree trimmings at the end of a Christmas season. Of one thing,however, I am certain. As soon as I open that box of trimmings next year, the pages will begin to turn ... the story will continue... and I'll be sure to get that " feelin' " once again.

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