Just after we commented that Sprocket was so careful when playing around the tree, he went flying through the kitchen and knocked the whole tree about six inches to the left. (I’m pretty sure it was the laminate that saved it…if it had been on carpet it would have certainly fallen over.) “BAD DOG!” I screamed shrilly. Forrest looked at me grumpily; “You screamed in my ear,” he said.
All I could think about was ornaments breaking.
Aside from the ornaments that I collected as I grew up and the ones that Forrest and I have collected together, I also have three ornaments that were my grandma’s.
My grandfather on my dad’s side died when I was too young to remember him and by the time I was about six, my grandma decided that she didn’t want the mess or hassle of putting up a tree. Six-year-old Beth (probably wearing a Santa hat and carefully checking off the 30-some names on my Christmas list) decided that it was completely UNACCEPTABLE for Grandma not to have a tree. About a week before Christmas we arrived at Grandma’s with a 3-foot tree and dinner. Dad strung lights around her porch and carefully pulled the homemade wooden Peanuts characters out of the garage (many showing their years of love and use) and placing them in the yard. Mom put dinner in the oven and helped me put lights on the tree. Then to my grandma’s delight, she watched us trim her tree.
As I got older, I started listening as she related stories of where each ornament had come from. Some were made for her by her children, some were given to her by friends, and a couple, my favorites, were purchased by her and Grandpa for their first Christmas together.
Both my grandpa and grandma grew up in northern Minnesota. Grandpa was a few years older than Grandma (she was actually better friends with his younger brother Julian). Grandpa fought in France during WWII and Grandma went to Portland, Oregon to work in the shipyards. After the war they both returned to Minnesota but longed for the milder climate of the Pacific Northwest.
“Why don’t we get married and go together?” he asked. I’m sure that there’s more to the story than that but in short order they found themselves in Longview, Washington and later in Tacoma. Grandpa built houses and Grandma raised six kids and later was a cook at the Catholic elementary (the kids got fresh homemade rolls a couple times a week!).
Until she died, we continued our decorating tradition. (We even took the tree down for her so she didn’t have to worry.) As my parents and aunts and uncles sifted through her belongings, my mom asked them if they would mind letting me have just those special ornaments and they agreed. For the last four years, they’ve remained carefully wrapped in tissue paper at my parents because I was afraid to move them from place to place with us. This year, in our own house, I unpacked them and hung them on our tree. And remembered.