Mum made it back from Patagonia all in one piece. I had purchased the Christmas tree right after church a couple of Sundays back and looked for the smallest one. The annual tree sale at the Dedham Community House has been part of the Dedham scene for generations. They bring the trees down from Canada and sell them for 3x the price, but the money goes into supporting the programs for the kids and since I took tennis lessons and banged my head a few times sledding down the hill in the back. It was justifiable. Needle drop, dry branches and all. Paines is just too far and I don’t have a roof rack.
Before Mum left she said that maybe she didn’t need a tree this year. Which would have been a first. So I nabbed the tree while she was gone and put it in a bucket outside with water and liquid worm fertilizer and waited for her return. I had exams and final papers and basically didn’t want to trim the tree by myself. The day after she got back she announced that we would put up the tree. That day. In it came and into the stand and out came all the ornaments. Hers and mine both.
The negotiations and deliberations ensued. The decision was that all of the personalized, Disney inspired and travel momentoes would stay in the boxes. The paper bell that I made in 1969 along with the popsicle Gods Eye and the little silver goose all stayed in the box. Along with the tinsel and colored lights. A bit of a debate about the bird’s nest ornament, but after the glass birds were added, the nest stayed in the box too. In the end white lights and glass balls all around.
And that lead to a discussion about the ornaments. Mum loves the glass balls and at least one or two on her tree every year and I have memories of her putting them on the tree and at least one or two falling and smashing into pieces with a distinctive pop sound. I have a couple of boxes of glass balls too, from the Big Lots in Morrisville. And I asked, ” how long have you had theses” and she said, “these were the first ornaments”.
The Shiny Brite box had still had the price sticker on it faintly showing 77 cents. They had bought a box or two at Foy’s Five and Dime, and Mum had a smile while she talked. It was my parents’ first Christmas and mum was a young bride, pregnant with my sister and with all of the possibilities that lay ahead of them in 1961. All was right with the world at that point.
We move out and to our own homes and have our first Christmas trees and it is a right of passage. We get boxes of cheep glass balls because we haven’t collected any yet, no babies yet to for that Baby’s First Christmas ornaments. We collect ornaments as the years past and the children grow. I have two boxes of ornaments that have all of the memories from the past 24 years. But they stayed in the box and only the glass balls and glass birds came out. And it felt OK.
Coming back to my mother’s home has been a challenge. Mending and redefining the relationship that has been strained for decades is not always easy or pain-free. But in the moment of decorating the tree, Christmas entered into the home. A sense of atonement for my own distancing, a time of healing and hope and most of all a reconciliation.