Our Christmas tree has been up for a couple of weeks now, and every time I see it, I smile. Even with snot dripping down my face. Even with a toddler hanging off my leg while demanding, "Want Daddy NOW!" (Preaching to the choir here Little Man) that tree makes me smile.
Probably because for several years, my Christmas tree made me cry.
When JR and I had been dating for a while, we made the decision that lots of couples do: Why pay rent on two apartments when you both only ever sleep in one? Trouble is, we both had one bedrooms and his lease wasn't going to be up for a while and mine was up right away.
So I moved into his place and got a storage unit for a bunch of my stuff that wasn't going to fit in the place that used to be "his" but was now "ours." None of my furniture or really valuable possessions went into the unit; they replaced all of JR's things because Hello Bachelor Pad!
Primarily I was packing away things like books from college that I somehow deluded myself into thinking I would read again, wall art that didn't have a wall to hang on anymore (the man actually had good art) and boxes of Christmas ornaments. The ornaments that I had begged my mother to give me when I struck out on my own. The ornaments that I carefully sorted through when I left my first husband to ensure that he didn't get a single one. The ornaments that were one of the most tangible links to my childhood.
Then, my storage unit was burglarized. I lost every. single. ornament.
The ones that had belonged to my great-grandmother that were losing most of their paint but were that much more charming for their age. The wooden nutcracker from the first time I saw The Nutcracker performed and decided that I would be a ballerina. The crystal ballerina I got at about age 8 with a chip missing from her tutu (I blamed the cat) but who was nonetheless magical when hung in front of a white light, twirling on her toes and casting rainbows around the room. The strange wooden ornament that was a combination Christmas tree and bookshelf with toys in each little cubby and a yellow star at the top. And many more that I can no longer call to mind, but which had a story to tell of their very own.
I wept for three days after discovering my loss, picturing my precious treasures, of value to no one but me, in a landfill somewhere tossed aside after their kidnapper discovered how useless they were.
I cried for several Christmases there after, when I pulled out the boxes of shiny new ornaments resented for their perfection. Their lack of history. Their Better Homes and Gardens-ness.
But this year, this year is different. Because this year, Grasshopper is 2 1/2. This year, JR and I have been married for 5 Christmases. This year, those same ornaments (and the ones we have added, together) have stories to tell and memories to evoke. They are all that my little boy has known, and this year he feels responsible for them in a way that does a Mommy's heart good.
When we trimmed the tree this season, we told Grasshopper that it was his job, his Very Important Responsibility to make sure that all of our ornaments stayed on the tree. You see we have kitties, and they are very naughty kitties...they might try to take our ornaments off the tree! Also, there are dinosaurs in our yard and if one of them gets in the house, well, they might try to mess up our ornaments too! So we need him to do this Very Important Job, and he DOES.
I frequently hear cries of, "Puh Puh (Pasha, the Persian) NAUGHTY!" "Puh Puh by twee!" and when I rush into the living room, there is Grasshopper with one hand on his hip and the other thrust out in front of him like a police officer ordering her to stop and step away from the tree.
And I smile all over again.
I smile when I look at the cluster of fuzzy snowman ornaments that Grasshopper insisted be hung together so that they could have buddies. I smile when I see the crystal snowflake emblazoned with the year JR and I were married. I smile when I see the tiny silver frame with a picture of a tiny boy from Grasshopper's first Christmas.
But mostly I smile because I see the joy my son takes in carefully touching each and every ornament, and protecting them, the way I wish that I could have protected mine.