I hung the ornaments you bought me over the years, last night. The wooden ornaments shaped like cats, with bells and ribbons on them, the red and the gold apples, the clear oyster shells with a picture from a long-ago holiday card pasted in the middle of them...
I miss you and Dad at this time of year, especially. Through the poverty and drinking years, and then the healthy years, the both of you kept the magic of Christmas so alive, we happily left the myth of Santa behind. You gave my brother and I the still mystery of bringing the tree in from the cold, with its aura of pine scent. The most holy moment of the season was stringing white lights on the tree, like lighting the last white candle of Advent.
I miss when Dad built a fire in the fireplace, and turned off all the lights in the house, except for those on the tree. It was an essential part of Christmas that I keep in my heart. I remember your delicious custard, crafted carefully over a day.
I miss the year of the "red" tree, nothing but apples and cardinals and red bows hung by the white lights. I miss the year of my childhood, when you bleached the oyster shells in the bathtub, and had a hole drilled at the top of them to string from the tree at our home on the Chesapeake Bay. I miss the year you made everyone search for their presents from clues written on paper, and hung from the tree. I loved the year you thought of wrapping all the presents with the funny papers, from the Sunday editions. Or the year you wrapped everything in tin foil.
I remember getting simple gifts, toothpaste and toothbrushes, combs to hold my hair, sometimes a sweater, or earrings. My favorite gifts were the books: Little Women, the complete set of the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Silmarillion.
And so, this year again, I have my own tree, with your ornaments on it. And I string the lights with Dad nearby, and you roasting a turkey in the kitchen. I make your favorite banana nut bread, for my brother. I bake breads that you and Dad loved, and cakes, and cookies, the soft ones, for you and the crunchy ones for Dad and I.
And I have the people you loved visiting on Christmas Day. There are some new ones, I know that you both would like, in my life, and they love your ornaments, too. And some have gone to spend Christmas with you.
Until we meet again.
Your loving daughter,