It’s the end of November and I’m unpacking my Christmas totes, asking myself how another year could have come and gone so quickly. Wasn’t I just doing this? I’m pretty sure I was. No really. I was standing in this same spot just yesterday. Sigh. What is it with time as we get older?
As the kids and I unwrap decorations from crumpled newspaper, Megan comes across a set of white ceramic angels. As she unwraps them she laughs and says “Oh Mom – the angels got broken again this year.” I look at her and smile. Sure enough, once again the girl angel’s wings are hanging on by a thread and the end of the boys’ has come completely off. She sets them down with care and I remind her how long we have had them, smiling.
It’s then that I look around at our Christmas decorations and realize how many of these things have been broken over the years.
There’s the Rudolph Snow Globe. Mark loved this snow globe so much when he was younger. It’s musical and plays – obviously – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. This was his favourite song, bar none when he was a little boy. I remember when he was three I showed it to him for the first time. He was enamoured by the falling snow and the song playing in the background. He asked me if he could pick it up himself. “Of course you can honey. Just be careful.”
On the inside of two minutes it went crashing to the ground. The glass shattered and water and fake snow were everywhere. He cried and cried. But I told him it didn’t matter. Rudolph still sang and was still intact. And we could watch the snow fall outside as it played.
I also unpack four ceramic letters that spell the word snow. We have always put them in our hallway, and promptly each year our dog Ginger rushes to the door to greet a holiday guest, wags her very large tail, and knocks over one, or two, or on a good day even three of those letters. And every year we glue them back together, and laugh at her enthusiasm.
And there’s the wine glass. My best friend has always been one of my very favourite people to shop for. I adore seeking out a perfect gift for her. Nine years ago when I moved away from her and came back to Nova Scotia I found this stunningly decorated Christmas wine glass. I bought one for her and one for me. I sent it to her with a note to open before Christmas, saying that I had bought the exact same one and we could think of each other doing Christmassy things while drinking out of the same glass and we wouldn’t seem so far away from each other. Off went hers safely to be opened. While mine fell off a kitchen window sill and broke its stem completely in half. Sigh. But I didn’t part with it – instead I put in a small glass container and use it as a candle holder. It really is beautiful.
Then there’s the hand-painted mug we bought when the kids were born for Santa to drink his milk out of. It matches a cookie plate. I looked high and low for this set and adore it. Sadly the mug got put in the dishwasher by a well meaning guest one year and now says “Mil or anta”. We keep saying we are going to paint the other letters back on. It never happens. But we laugh when we open it and put it in its place of honour in the kitchen none the less.
There’s also the broken red star on top of the green ceramic Christmas tree that sits in my living room. The one my Mom gave me 10 years ago, which is the same one I grew up with in my own home when I was younger. How I loved that tree when I was a kid. Putting the lights in it each year. And how I love having it in my living room now with my own kids as they put lights in it – broken star and all.
And of course there’s the giraffe ornament that’s missing his legs because one of the kids little trees they keep in their room fell over; the Disney ornaments that came unglued; the eye that has fallen off a Christmas stuffed animal; and the VHS tape that went hurling down the stairs with our favourite Christmas movie on it.
And finally there’s those angels. Those white ceramic angels. We’ve had those with us the longest. Before the kids. Even back before we got married, when we were living together. They were the one thing that always followed us from back then. No matter where we moved – what house or three Provinces we were living in, those angels followed us around and made their appearance from dusty boxes each year.
I remember thinking they are “us”. Me and Craig. They are leaning over getting ready to kiss each other. I remember when they were brand new and perfect and so white. I remember when they got their first mark on them. It was black and wouldn’t come off. At first I was devastated but then I thought “they are like us … just a little worn”.
Then one of their wings broke, and I thought that’s okay. We are still together even though we don’t look like we used to. And then another wing broke off. And each year we would get the angels out and each year Craig would glue them back together. And each year I would think how they resembled us more and more – a marriage of many years with its hard knocks and ups and downs.
How naive we were. Little did we know what hard knocks were back then. The years went by and I remember one of those years Craig forgot to fix them. And although I could have done it myself I just didn’t have the energy to. But then another year passed and back they got glued together.
I remember even one year her head fell off. I’m laughing hysterically as I write this but it’s true. If you look at her closely you will see where her head was glued back on. Honestly. This makes me belly laugh with such irony and somehow such joy! We thought we knew what rough times were. We didn’t have a clue. But we do now. Do we ever.
I look at them now and once again they need repair. They need a little TLC and time and effort. But they always have. And most of the time … not all of the time …. but most of the time, we make sure they are taken care of. Maybe not like they should be – maybe not like if we took them to a repair shop – but in the best way we can, and could, during the times we were dealt.
So yes – it’s another year. And we will fix those angels up again and give them the care they need. Someday we may take the time to superglue them and put more care into what they look like and clean them up a bit more. But for now, we will to put them up on the shelf and be so thankful that they are still hanging out together, roughly in piece, to remind how far we have come. To remind us of our perseverance, fortitude and love.
I am so thankful for all the parts of my broken Christmas. Each one holds a strong memory and teaches the four of us that things don’t have to be perfect to be treasured. I love that we don’t surround ourselves with pretty Christmas things that can’t be touched. I love that we still put all of these broken things out, and in my less than perfect home they fit right in. I think they are all my most prized Christmas possessions … and I’ll stack my broken Christmas up against someone’s pristinely decorated perfect Christmas any day of the week.