Thursday, December 6, 2012

A New Christmas Tradition is Born

This evening, Brandon and I carefully unpacked our Christmas ornaments, eager to find 'just the right spot" for each and every treasured piece. There was the glass snowman, painted with broad preschool strokes by a child oblivious to the outside world, his only concern that Santa find him and his family in the only home he'd ever known.

Then there was the star made of popsicle sticks, a treasure created in kindergarten and Brandon's first attempt at blending oil paints. I closed my eyes and recalled the day Brandon pulled it out of his backpack and we ceremoniously placed it on our tree, a tree positioned in front of the same window in the only house Brandon had ever known. Brandon giggled at his amateurish artwork but I smiled. I knew I would hang that ornament on our tree every year until the day I died. 

We continued, unwrapping one treasure at a time, re-telling the story behind each ornament that had come into our lives. If Brandon was too young to remember its origin, I'd tell him. He listened intently to the story behind the glass tennis balls, a gift from Mormor in honor of our Labrador Brandy's obsession with the yellow balls. And of the hand painted botanical globes, painted in art class with care by Nanna. And the beaded candy cane his mommy made in Girl Scouts. After each story, we carefully chose a spot on the tree we’d spent the better part of an afternoon selecting at the tree farm just the day before.

An hour later we both paused and stared at the ornament with the hand painted Labrador and the name MAX underneath it. Our first Christmas without our beloved dog. This Christmas held many firsts for us. “I know just where to put it Mommy,” Brandon whispered. He gently lifted the ornament and hung it on a branch next to a Labrador with angel wings. “Max is our angel dog now, and these two ornaments together means he’s watching over us.”

I squeezed his shoulder and smiled. “It’s perfect.”

As Brandon gathered up the glass icicles and placed them around the tree, I deftly buried the handcrafted ornament depicting a family of three adorned with santa hats in tissue paper back in the box. The ornament no longer had a place in our home.

“I love our tree,” Brandon smiled.

“There’s just one thing left to do,” I said. I scanned our collection of Christmas songs and selected River by Sarah McClachlan. I clasped Brandon’s hands and we danced in front of our tree, our first Christmas dance.  We stared at the tree and swayed to the music. I was grateful my young son didn’t seem to mind that our home was a third the size of the only home he’d ever known. That our tree was half the size of the only Christmas trees he’d ever known. It didn’t matter. We created this new home together and it was built on love. We created this tree together and, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, created this new tradition together. A Christmas dance. 

As I tucked Brandon into bed tonight, I envisioned our next Christmas dance. And the one after that. And, many years down the road, that first dance when I had to look up to him because he’d grown taller than me. I can't wait. But for now, I’m content to watch my little boy sleep, and dream of Santa Claus coming to our home. A warm, secure home built on love and new traditions.

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