Considering Liam's love for Fiddler on the Roof, it should come as no surprise that he pulled out the "t" word last week when we were having a discussion about when to get our Christmas tree. Since we like to cut our own, and are believers that a tree should settle a bit prior to decorating, I offered (after consultation with the boys' dad), two options: Saturday afternoon with the four of us or Sunday with 5 Lillys in a 'vo*. He opted for the second choice stating that we should all go together because it was a "tradition." I agreed without hesitation, but did spend a little time later thinking about traditions and their importance.
When I recall my own childhood Christmas memories, I think about things like that wacky silver tree we had for a few years in the early 70's, and the special linens and dishes which only got pulled out once a year. I remember the hushed mystery of midnight mass and eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg and packages wrapped with more care than I can ever muster. Even after so many years, the images in my head remain vivid (perhaps that metallic tree burned itself into my corneas) and the season's festiveness holds a special magic I am happy to immerse myself in during the month of December.
The power of memories and traditions as an influence on our own actions and celebrations can't be minimized. As a child I loved the tradition of Christmas cards - the special stamps and glittery excitement of what each day's mail might bring. I myself have continued the practice of sending Christmas cards despite my annual threat to seriously cut back, if not eliminate the practice due to the
emotional expense of getting the perfect photo and creating the perfect card and honing and continuing to perfect my list of recipients. But it isn't really about perfection, at all, is it?
When my son used the "t" word, it made me proud to know that, despite the upcoming dissolution of our marriage, his dad and I have been able to navigate our way to a place where our boys still believe in and respect family traditions. So, last weekend the 5 of us drove together to the tree farm we've been going to for years (our original place slid into the Normanskill some time ago) and we picked two trees for the first time. I picked a different type of tree than we've ever had - it is smallish and has beautiful long, soft needles that didn't shred my hands when I placed the lights on it in my slightly OCD fashion. The boys' Dad got a ridiculously huge tree which I would have most certainly done my best to veto in years gone by. I'm sure we both believe we have Christmas trees that are perfect but, more importantly, I know we have provided our children with imperfect holiday traditions they will continue to honor long after the trees have shed their needles and hit the curb.
*a fond abbreviation for Volvo