So Many Yesterdays...

It was a good day to get the tree out of the attic. Cloudy and cool. Not really cool enough, though. Ideal weather for decorating the Christmas tree would be freezing cold and blowing a little snow. But cool is about as good as it gets in Florida. I'd have to settle.

I made a pot of coffee and a big batch of Chex Mix and broke open a box of Chocolate Covered Cherries. Not that I needed them. I just needed to be in the mood for a little Christmas. I turned on Channel 433 and the Sounds of the Season danced off the walls sending me into that Christmas spirit.

My wonderful husband had promised, and after he hung the lights on the tree, I shooed him out of the house. I needed to be alone. He teases me about my tree. Said it looks like a sharpened pencil that should be sitting on a giant Christmas eraser. It's tall and skinny and fits effectively in a certain place in a living room where the ceilings appear to be twenty feet high, but probably are more like seventeen.

I opened the boxes one at a time and laid out the pieces. I know them "by heart" and I like to think I put each one in its proper place every year, though there is no proper place really. I draped the garland, the beaded ropes, and then went for the ornaments. I knew it was in there and I knew what would happen when I pulled out a little box containing the carousel my mother gave me years ago. A delicate little piece that makes me cry when I see it. I opened the box and took it out. The minute my fingers touched the cage around the floor and the horses, tears started popping.

My mother and daddy loved Christmas. Our house always smelled high of the fragrances of holidays. My son describes his grandmother's old china cabinet better than anyone I know. As ever, it sits in the kitchen as you walk in the door from the carport. To this day, Peter opens that cabinet when he walks in the room, sticks his head inside it and breathes deep. He declares it still smells of coconut and pineapple and orange and chocolate and apples tinctured with cinnamon and nutmeg. Like home. It smells like home. I wish I could describe my childhood holidays to my children and grandchildren, but words fail me. It's not something you can say. It's something you experience and they never will—not like I did.

I hung the carousel, dried my eyes, and moved on to the little metal piece with a manger scene etched on the front. Emanuel... God with us. On the back, Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you... I had to pause a moment and thank God for sending a Saviour, the Lord Jesus, and for giving me the desire to know Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. My baby sister, Caren, gave me that tiny metal ornament. I picked up Tracy's little yellow bicycle, the only yellow piece on the tree, a replica of the one her daddy bought her one Christmas. Her first boy's bike. There's something about us and the color yellow that's another fun story for later. I went to the drawer where I keep the red velvet box, opened it up and drew out the little red velvet bag, stretched out the cord and removed the heart-shaped Waterford crystal ornament with two turtledoves etched into the back and under it inscribed the date, 1985. Twenty-five year ago this year, Hugh and Rosemary gave it to me for my Christmas tree. Turtle doves, symbolic of a lasting love between my husband and me. We married on Christmas Eve 1957. I met Hugh and Rosemary in 1985. It was the first of many memories from them, including twenty-five years of priceless friendship. More tears.

I hung the beautiful Victorian stockings Angie made with her talented little fingers. When I look at her work, I'm amazed. She didn't get that from me. Finished. All the familiar ornaments fast to the tree, tears gone, remembrances in place. To tell them all would require reams of paper. Ready for another beautiful season. But first... Thanksgiving. So much to be thankful for. A lifetime of memories, some hanging on the tree, all written down in House Not Made With Hands, one of the best things I've ever done, chronicled for my children to pass along to theirs.


  1. "It's coming on Christmas and their putting up trees." That's a line from a song, quoted in the movie, You've Got Mail. Your story reminds me of that scene. The main character is missing her mother just as you were. I miss your mother too. i've been watching Christmas movies since Halloween and I can't wait to get a tree up. You do a great job of remembering and bringing me with you. I can smell the cabinet at Mamaw's house while I sit here. Don't stop remembering. I'm anxiously awaiting more.


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