We are so glad to welcome you home this year! Even though it can only be virtually, my family is here, imagine we’re taking your coat, you are stomping the snow off your shoes in the hallway and coming in out of the cold. There is merriment in the air since we’ve been looking forward to your visit for a long time. There is our little grey cat Minnie, perched on the bannister of the old stairs. She likes to greet everyone who comes over nose to nose. Smokey, our elder cat, will probably warm your lap later on once things quiet down.
Today, it is tradition that we put up our Christmas tree and so I’ll leave you with dear Isabel, our 6 year old, while the boxes are brought up from the basement. I hope you’ll make yourself at home, I don’t want you to work, just relax, enjoy playing with Isabel, that’s a huge help for me, and you’ll have fun. She’ll be so glad to adopt you for today as an older sibling! Enjoy the hot mulled cider I’ve got warming in the kitchen as well as the happy chaos of excitement. Christmas is her favorite time of year. The “Elf on the Shelf” will have to make an appearance tomorrow morning, so I’ll need you to help me keep him hidden until then! Maybe you’d like to read his book to her. She would like that.
Once we get the tree set up and tied to the window sill so the cat can’t knock it down, I have a gift for you. Please sit in the soft brown chair in front of fire place. Imagine the box — it’s brightly wrapped and topped with a sparkling bow. See, there is your name on the gold tag. You must open it now. We can’t wait. Inside, under the tissue paper, you find the delicate ornament for the tree, it’s yours, each year we get you a new one. It marks the history of the time you’ve spent in our family. I hope you like it. I spend a lot of time hunting for the perfect one, that matches who you are and what you really love.
We hang the strings of lights first, and the cat, I’m sure, is already up in the upper layers of the tree,. We are laughing at her antics. I say as I do every year, “We should keep the tree up year round for cat enrichment.” Everyone pretends to agree, even if I seem like the crazy cat lady. Now we put up each group of ornaments…the tin sleighs with St. Nick at the reins, the snowmen and red boughs, the wrapped gifts and glass globes of every color. I would love if you put up my special ones, near the top…the crystal seahorses and penguins, the stag with his frosted glass antlers and red holly at his neck. We have a mixture of different styles on our tree. When I was younger, I liked to have it all be one or two colors, matching, but over time, and especially since becoming a mom, I began to love the tapestry of memories each ornament represents.
Once fully decorated, the tree tells the story of our family, and you can figure out a little of who we are, at the heart, from the ornaments, chosen with care. One of my very favorites, forgive me if I’ve told this story before, is from Mystic Seaport and has etched tall ships on it. I got this one the year I was homesick, living far from the sea and the home town I loved. It has special meaning because Mystic is the town where met my husband, where we first fell in love. I am so glad to see your ornament in the middle, sparkling away, as part of our family tree and lasting memory.
Once we’re done, we admire our work and enjoy a dinner of hot 3-alarm chili with melted cheese and fresh bread. There’s four of us at the table and later, once we’ve cleaned up, come on with me into the living room again, in the quiet. It’s so beautiful now, with the lights giving off their soft glow. Enjoy the hot cookies fresh from the oven. I added some peppermint to lift the spirit and remind us of joyful, happy times.
Dearest holiday child, I may not know you or the details of your struggle, but please know that I love you. I have plenty in my heart to go around and it’s not limited by space, time or proximity. I’d want to know you’ll come back every year. I will continue to do what I can to create a better world that welcomes every child, and in which all are safe and loved, where a parent’s love knows no conditions. Maybe you’ll take your ornament with you in your heart, holding it as proof that there is a mom out here, thinking of you, wishing you every possible happiness and wanting to know how things are going. I will keep a space for you in my heart and home. Be warm, be well, and may your future days be merry and bright.
All my love this holiday season and ever after,