This time of year is brimming with traditions. Some are shared across cultures, others within a family and yet new traditions are being created each season as new families emerge out of marriages and births. It is part of what I love about the holidays and that is even more so each year as Nate gets older and these things actually begin to mean something to him.
Putting up the tree is no exception and an evening that I always look forward to. Each step of the process, from buying the tree to putting it in the stand to adorning it, had an impression on Nate. I guess when the highlight of your average day is snack time, it’s easy to see why buying a living tree from a stranger on the street, erecting it in your home and hanging all sorts of interesting things on its’ branches, is pretty monumental. It was so fun to unwrap each ornament, reminisce about where it came from and then place it in his little hands. He was determined to find the perfect spot on the tree for each one. It’s the stuff that memories are made of.
Aside from the actual ritual of trimming the tree, I love that evening because I am always reminded of my favorite holiday memory of all time. Hard to believe, but it actually has nothing to do with receiving my favorite toy or believing that I actually saw Santa’s sleigh careen through the sky. It happened about ten years ago and it was during a time in my life when the holidays had a much different meaning for me.
I had only started One Girl Cookies a few years prior and the month of December meant sixteen hour days standing on aching feet, refusing every holiday party invitation and wishing for the ability to stay up past 9 o’clock on Christmas Eve. Dave had just become my business partner and boyfriend and it was our first co-habitating Christmas. As exciting as all of that was, I felt a sadness that I now had someone to share in the merriment of the season but we were working too hard to actually do that. My mom, being the person that worked hard to create memorable holiday seasons for my sisters and I, always felt some sympathy that I never decorated my apartment or put up a tree or had a darn cup of eggnog. So, that year, she, my dad and my sisters were committed to changing that.
After a particularly long day of baking hundreds of cookies, wrapping them up in pretty boxes and getting them to their intended recipients, Dave and I returned home to our Brooklyn walk up to find the most magical of Christmas scenes. There, in our little apartment stood the most perfect evergreen decked out in lights and garland and glittery ornaments. The smell of the pine and the glow of the lights transformed that space in a way that was indescribable.
Instantly, the holiday took on a whole new meaning. As if that weren’t enough, the tree was perched next to our refrigerator, which was fully stocked with enough homemade food to get us (as well as a small town) through the rest of the holiday season. My gut reaction was to burst into tears. I was overcome with emotion but also perplexed at how they would even get into our apartment to accomplish such a feat. I later learned that it involved a scouting mission ahead of time, a lot of coaxing of our landlord and some true family team work. It was the most perfect reminder of how lucky I am to have such a loving and beautiful family. And also, that the beauty of Christmas comes in all sorts of, sometimes unexpected, forms.