Friday, December 18, 2009

The road to my heart

I almost didn't pull the boxes off the shelf this year and take out this exquisite wax angel or hilarious blue feathered bird. The angel was a gift from my mother-in-law, a woman who took me under her wing and believed in me when I was lost and broken. I think of her every year I place it, with love, on a tree.
This year, I had settled in Eeyore-land and was moping. I was sure there was no way I was going to hunt down a tree small enough to fit in my Miata, light enough for me to haul in and set up. Too much trouble. Why bother?
But one bright morning after days of rain, I went out to run chores, and my mind said, "Wouldn't it be a nice day to look at Christmas trees, to smell that heady scent and just see--not buy, of course--if they have any small ones."

And there I was. Breathing deep, sticking my face wantonly into the branches of dozens of trees, falling in love.
I saw one about my height--a tad above 5'2"--and told the tree elf that I would take it if he could wedge it in the front seat of a Miata. They wrapped it up tight and, oh my, it fit. My tree and I drove home, very chummy.
And then the forest came to live with me. At least for a couple of weeks. And I took down the boxes full of memories, loving and savoring the story of each ornament I placed on the branches.
Because that's what Christmas is to me, remembering the love and joy we have experienced and the people with whom we shared that.

This being the year of my sea novel, I was elated to find this wild and wacky fish. Nearby, I hung an enameled sea horse and a gorgeous white shell. I've added several of the shells I found in November while the novel was tumbling from my head to the page.

So the tree cradles my current dreams, too.

Here are dough ornaments made years ago when my daughter was small. She made the adorable Santa on the left, and, for years, didn't want me to hang it because it didn't look like the ones I made. But now she sees the delight in a child's art, and I can remember my lovely, amazing daughter every time I snug it on a tree.

This cherub angel I purchased in Notre Dame in Paris. Every year I get to recall that wonderful trip when I uncover it again. There are so many more ornaments, given by friends, found in back streets of New Orleans, made by hand--each speaks to me.
While decorating, I let music lift my spirit. I listened to the great Christmas music CD I got from Tess Hilmo and another one an old friend recorded of himself singing holiday songs while strumming a ukulele. Glen McGuire is an Irish-Pawnee poet who moved back to Oklahoma years ago, but when I put on his CD, I remember him with great fondness. I interviewed him when I was a reporter and he was a teacher at a BIA school. He had written a chapbook of poetry (Spider Spins Between Two Worlds), and I remember him tapping his hand in syncopation as he recited a poem about jazz musicians.
On the CD is also a lovely, haunting poem he wrote and set to music. It tells, in a way, what I love about a holiday that brings back to memory the people who have made my life special. I'm sorry if I misquote or only get the gist of some lines, because I scribbled it down from the recording. Forgive me if I messed up anything, Glen:

Had a chance to go to London once,
Stayed in Kansas and held your hand.
Had a chance to go to Paris once,
Stayed in Laramie and kissed your hand.
Had a chance to go to Athens once,
Stayed in Santa Fe and touched your lips.
Haven't traveled far, oh Lord, in this world,
But a long road to the city of my heart.
Once again forgive me, Glen, wherever you are, if I got any words wrong. It's hard to take them down from a recording, but they touched me and I want to say that is what this holiday means to me--the journey to the city of my heart and all the wonderful people I've met along the way.
Happy holidays, everyone, no matter how you celebrate, no matter what your beliefs, I hope this time of year warms your heart.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is a beautiful post, Tricia. Ornaments are what make the tree special. I have a dated Hallmark ornament from my step-mother for every year since 1979 - so this year makes my 30th ornament. My children receive one each year too, and they are full of sentimental value and memories. Thanks for sharing your tree story and your beautiful ornaments with us. ;-)

Andrea Cremer said...

I love this post! One of my favorite Christmas activities is decorating the tree. Each ornament has a story. Thank you for sharing yours :)

Liza said...

Before I even got to Glen's poem, I thought to myself, "This post is digging into my heart." On a day when I'm feeling a bit flustered, thanks for the reminder to savor holiday joys from the past.

Bish Denham said...

Lovely, a beautiful post. I have far more ornaments than I can hang on our little tree, every one precious.

Robyn Campbell said...

Awwww What a wonderfully gentle reminder to relish Christmas' past. And all holidays really. But especially Christmas. I have ornaments kept from Christmas' past.(You knew I did, didn't ya?)

Even the kids early drawings and things like that.

I especially love the Santa your daughter made. How magnificent. And I see my pals life in her ornaments. I love that. Thanks. For being there. I'm unplugging next week. Merry Christmas Tricia. :0)

* said...

I enjoyed reading this, how each ornament hangs on your tree, each one a memory. And I laughed, too, at the image of you, sticking your face wantonly in the branches of the trees. That's the one sad thing about our fake Christmas tree, no pine-scented mojo.

BK Mattingly said...

I love the ornaments! Great post! I tagged you over at my blog!

lisa and laura said...

I love hanging ornaments on the tree. My mom gave me a bunch of ornaments that were given to me when I was little and each one brings back so many different memories. Thanks for sharing yours!

Lisa Schroeder said...

I love the stories behind the ornaments. Thanks for sharing yours!!

V. S said...

The ornaments are beautiful! Especially the angel :)

Thanks for sharing.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi everyone. I was gone on family business all day, and it is so nice to come home to all your cheery comments.

Shannon: I'm not sure at what point in my life that I realized I needed a tree that was more than pretty. When I see gorgeous trees in malls, they are pretty to look at but there is no depth, no emotion. That's what I need.

Andrea: Yes, they do hold stories. I often tell the stories to anyone who happens to be around when I decorate.

Liza: Thanks. It is a post from the heart. I felt it tugging for hours.

Bish: Oh, I bet you do. I love the objects and stories you tell from the islands.

Robyn: Thanks, my friend. Have a wonderful week, filled with joy.

Terresa: Ha! You caught me in the wanton act. That fresh pine smell is so heady, I am quite undone.

Thanks, Bethany!

LiLa: I really do think those old ornaments can carry our memories. And, oh, I hope you didn't lose any on the horrible, terrible day. :(

Thanks so much, Lisa and Vicky. I am so happy everyone enjoyed them, too.

Donna said...

Lovely tree, lovely tales.

Most of our ornaments are filled with memories too painful to unpack. This year we decorate anew from a mystery box purchased at a neighborhood yard sale. We were told to expect a surprise. Indeed, when my husband and I returned home, we unwrapped dozens of exquisite glass, sequined, and painted pieces. When I went back to thank the old woman for her treasures, we exchanged stories and hugs. Her spirit will be with me as I trim our tree.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Donna, I am deeply sorry about the unbearably painful memories, but I am amazed that a mystery box and a neighbor supplied new, if borrowed, memories. It sounds like a magical moment.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

What a lovely post! Thanks for sharing your Christmas. I have to say, I'm looking forward to your post on Monday! I think the Kissing Day Blogfest is going to be FUN!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Love the blue bird and the dough ornaments. Very cute!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Sherrinda, welcome! I am very excited about the Kissing Day Blogfest. I can't wait to read the posts. Shout out to everybody--Monday we are warming up the holidays by posting excerpts of kissy scenes.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Ann! You snuck in while I was responding to Sherrinda. Thanks for the commment. I love that silly blue bird--makes me laugh.

Yvonne Osborne said...

I meant to comment earlier when I first saw your blue bird but didn't have time. He's adorable and your ornament from Paris is exquisite. That's the great thing about ornaments, each has memories attached. Memories are on my mind from delving into The Giver:) I also have some wacky birds that my husband always makes fun of and I always try to find a branch on which to hide them. Great pictures. And I like the poem.

Unknown said...

This is lovely. Thank you so much for sharing it! I think I may try to copy your idea for Christmas ornament memories. When we decorated the tree recently, my husband had no idea why I was so slow--but I was remembering my best memories as I hung the ornaments.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yvonne: I have a ton of birds on my tree. Can't help it, I love them. I say, hang them with pride!

Beth: I'd be honored to have you run with this idea. I swear I keep up a commentary in my head or outloud if someone is there as I hang the ornaments. So much is attached to those little things.