Everlasting Memories Blog About Life, Loss and Everything In Between
Wow! Talk about a whirlwind long weekend! We squeezed in a birthday, Thanksgiving, kids home, kids going back to school. An infected dog paw, a little shopping, lots of leftovers. Dishes and laundry and cleaning windows. A few cocktails and then a few more cocktails. 5 pies, dishes and laundry. Errands, 6 gallons of milk, a couple of hours of ironing, visits from family. A scratched cornea. Oh and dishes and laundry. By no means a perfect weekend as there were a couple of tantrums thrown in there by all parties but a perfect family weekend.
Oh and we got our tree!
One of my most favorite things to do. Forced family fun. We gathered together in the car (that right there spells F-U-N) and drove to Pell Farms to tromp through the woods (not really) with ax and saw in hand to cut down the Schumaker Family Christmas Tree. Lots of grumbling and complaining, whining and moaning. Oohs and ahh’s as well. In a relatively short amount of time, we stumbled upon our tree and after discovering they no longer offered wrap, we secured the tree in the truck with the one strap we didn’t know we had and began the trip home. With about six feet of tree hanging out of the back of the truck. On the busiest shopping day of the year. Lots of cars. Lots of traffic.
Arrive home, tree stand is already set up and the bottom of the tree stump is prepped to be loaded into said stand. Small problem. Tree is too tall. We have 12’ ceilings (11’ 9” but you get the idea). Because it took four of them to bring the tree in we decide against hauling it back outside and cut branches and another 12” off the bottom of the tree and the two tall spikey things at the top. Little full, lots of sap. But it fit. Barely.
Amidst all of the grumbling and complaining which I work hard to not let irritate me (all part of the experience), I kept reminding myself that some day, the kids will look back on this and be grateful. Not necessarily for the experience but more so the memory. The tradition. And the importance of that tradition and the other traditions that we have done our best to lay out for them over the course of the past 18 years. So for my three little complainers, grumblers, whiny goosies - I hope you take a minute to read this and let it marinate. Because this one, my children, this one is for the three of you.
By definition, my girl Merriam says that tradition is “the handing down of information, beliefs and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.” Kind of like monkey see, monkey do but over the course of time. Tradition is a way of expressing our values, our lifestyle, our way of doing things to our children and hoping that they take the best of the best from those values, visual tools for their toolbox later in life.
And it’s not so much about those tangible traditions but, most importantly, the intangible traditions. Those are the sweet spot. Those gifts that our children find annoying are in fact a grounding point. A safe place of familiarity in an unfamiliar place to land. Draw comfort. Something as inconsequential as tromping through the woods to find the ‘perfect’ tree so we can just get home will some day resonate with them. As they are placating a spouse of their own who wants that perfect tree for their family. Or as they are patiently explaining over and over again to a child that green is green and not red. Or answering the same question yet again from an elderly parent with dementia. There is life value in that tradition.
As I said, there is a lot of value in the traditions within our families. It does teach about patience and process. That not everything in life is to be hurried through in our rush to get to the next thing. That experiences create memories and those memories provide us with emotional history. And that history is something that binds us to one another, that is individual to us. And at the end of our time on this merry-go-round, if we can leave our children with one thing it is to carry on ‘us’, those things, those traditions that are special to our family. Tradition is how we are a part of our ancestors, those in our families that came before us.
Tradition Chez Moi
I think to understand the ‘why’ behind the whole Christmas tree experience, you really have to understand my history of getting a tree. Growing up, our house was decorated to the nines. The living room was decked out with tinsel and decorations, beautifully coordinated, everything balanced each other out. The decorations usually carried some sort of theme - either a carryover from last year or my mom might’ve changed everything up.
And the tree was really a thing of beauty. My mom would pick out the tree that she wanted from the Optimus club. Each ornament carefully and thoughtfully placed. The tree might be white flocked, pink lights and all poinsettias and gold decorations. It might be green with white lights and all silver bells and white doves. Point is, the tree every year could legitimately be placed in House Beautiful. Had the look and perfection of a professionally decorated Christmas tree. Super super beautiful.
And my mom did all the decorating. We might be allowed to sit and watch but you didn’t ask questions, you didn’t distract from the process of the decorating. And the option to help was not an option. My mom wanted things a certain way and that was the way they were going to be. She had her vision. Pot, kettle, black. I get that 1000%.
Flash forward to me and my life. Our first house, I was the same same. Tree was themed (blue, white and silver if I’m not mistaken) and, in fact, my mom made us a Christmas album with the same colors. This carried on for a couple of years. Eventually, as the kids got older they wanted to help. I would give them a coupe of ornaments and instruct them exactly where to place them. And it would be stressful and I would be agitated because the tree would be bottom heavy with ornaments and when they weren’t looking I would move the ornaments to where I wanted them. And they would come back to the tree later looking for their ornaments that weren’t there and heaven forbid - they would TOUCH the tree. Which would make me not happy.
I finally woke up and realized that that was NOT the tradition I wanted to give my children. One that made me not happy. They weren’t going to change - I had to change.
Every year we give the kids an ornament as do their grandparents. What good were the ornaments if they weren’t to be cherished? Remembered? All these ornaments that the kids have made for us in pre-school and elementary school? Family ornaments? All of this is not about me…it is about US.
So yes - I make them go help to pick out the tree even though I am that one that decides on the tree. Because it is something we get to do as a family. It is a memory that someday when they have kids of their own they will say, “Your nana used to make us tromp through the woods for hours to find the perfect tree…blah blah blah…” Give children of their own OUR family history.
And yes - they help decorate the tree. Rob hands them ornaments and they place the ornaments where they want. Brat #2 decided to sit on the side of the couch and place all of his on one side, complaining the whole time. Fine. This year that is his side of the tree and I am choosing to be okay with that. Goosey number 1 complained about the ribbon not being right on the left side of the tree. I ignored it until I walked into the family room this am and was like…that ribbon looks terrible on the left side of the tree. And with a broom, a kitchen chair and a prayer - fixed it. And my baby boy child that is no longer a baby must’ve asked five million times, “Are we done yet?”
And decorating the tree with their grandparents solidified that we have done it right. Their grandparents got so much joy going back through the history of the ornaments that they had given them, that they had gifted their son and his wife. They got to see that yes - they matter, they are a part of their lives. Of their grandchildren’s history. To see my mother-in-law’s face light up as we threw the glitter on the tree - that’s a memory I’ll treasure.
And the tree - it’s not perfect. A little too big probably, a little in your face. Lots of sap, overly glittered, ribbon askew, the tree topper tilted because there really isn’t the room at the top of the tree. Some of the lights are literally dripping off the tree and don’t anyone dare look at the back side of the tree…
It. Is. Perfection.
Hold on to those traditions. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing just because there is grumbling and complaining. There is much to be said for forced family fun. Be willing to modify where necessary and realize that sometimes the passing down of traditions means that you mold them to suit the needs of your family. But carry on with them nonetheless. Because some day, if you’re lucky, your goslings will carry them on, changing them and keeping them the same, passing on those traditions. And what greater gift is there than that…