Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!
— Dr. Seuss,
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
By the time you read this, it will be Christmas.
In a way the actual day is a relief. For four to six weeks, people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?,” like it is preparation for a marathon.
I envision sprint and lifting regimens to prepare you for running down sales and lifting heavy roasters out of the oven.
Perhaps a gift-wrapping obstacle course? Practice wrapping octagonal boxes with 2 inches of remaining tape, preschool safety scissors (because you can’t find the sharp ones) and a cat.
“Are you ready?” of course means is your shopping done? Have you decorated?
These days, the number of trees a person puts up is sometimes seen as a measure of festivity.
I love nothing more than dragging up the dozen or more plastic totes from the basement and pawing through them to create Christmas throughout the house. It’s like a glimpse into Christmas past.
This tree always goes here. That snowman always goes there. The reindeer we inherited always sits under the tree. We have our chosen setup, vignettes and ways. This year, however, we suffered a loss.
Somehow, our previously bone dry basement got damp and the clutter coffins (aka totes) all failed.
We opened box after box to find mildew and must. I sneezed and wheezed while shoving totes BACK out the door.
Tainted! and Out! were my holiday cries.
From the carnage we were able to salvage a few hard surface items but, for the most part, the stored items — many with fabric, velvet and glitter — were a total loss.
Gone are the ribbons and flowers we pinned on the tree. Gone are boxes of bulbs — some quite old.
We lost angels and reindeer and a whole slew of snowmen. Slew? Herd? How does one categorize a cluster of snowmen anyway?
I carefully soaked in vinegar the few hard items that we could salvage and in the end four tractor loads of tainted trash went to the curb.
I was kept from tears by the fact that the most precious of things were stored upstairs.
Regular readers will thrill to know that Elvis the Angry Christmas Angel was safely ensconced with the photo albums and most sentimental items. This means that we lost quite a few antique ornaments of value, but Elvis and the fellow paper products of preschool fame survived.
I found the childhood ornaments of my own (Garfield the cat and Snoopy 1977!) I have the handmade paper sleigh complete with cotton ball-bearded Santa. Fashioned of computer paper and Sharpie marker, it is in some eyes the lowliest of Christmas crafts. To me it is priceless.
Written in perfect preschool penmanship, it is signed with Girl Wonder’s first and LAST name. In case we confused her with our other daughter (we don’t have one), I guess.
Into the bins and out to the curb went some beautiful things. Sixty-year-old ornaments. Collector’s editions. I could weep from the loss — but I won’t.
As it is, we found that the things most important to us were automatically sorted just by dint of what we had chosen to set aside and store upstairs. Preschool crafts, cotton balls and glue are priceless. A boxed ornament, while lovely, can be replaced.
To fill in the gaps, I took photographs from throughout the years and decorated our tree with photos. The children. The smiles. The memories.
I think it’s my favorite tree yet.
Lost and found
The year we lost Christmas, is the year we found it. We found meaning in realizing that things — even beloved, handed down through generations things — don’t make memories. Family does.
Sitting on the porch sifting through the stuff, we learned that what was worth salvaging wasn’t always what was valuable. I’m sorry it happened, but I am not sorry for the aftermath.
I think we like our decorations — and the meaning behind them — more than we have in years. Much like the Grinch, I have learned that memories, like Christmas, don’t come from a store.
Memories, it seems, mean a little bit more.
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