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Friday, December 12, 2008

42% More Christmassy and A Bit Off to the Left

On Thanksgiving, Averie asked me if she could take her Christmas tree "home" with her.

I felt this twinge in my stomach. It was the same twinge I got this past summer when she moved out and into her own apartment in LA. I knew it was coming, but honestly, nothing prepares you for that moment you have prepared THEM for their whole lives. You WANT them to grow into self-sufficient adults, spread their wings, and go and make a world for themselves. And yet, when that day comes, it aches.

I "dealt" with it by closing the door of her empty bedroom. You see, her room is the first room as you walk in our front door. It was quiet, naked, and obvious. I had a hard time coping with it. So, I just closed the door. For about a month it sat there. I told Charlie that we HAD to do something. It couldn't just stay like that. Everytime I walked in there to use the computer, I wanted to cry. I wanted to make it a proper office, and it must be done quickly. So that is what happened. Averie thought it was a bit too quick for her taste. To her it seemed that we couldn't wait for her to leave so that we could turn her room into a workspace. To me, it was a way to soothe my aching heart. It worked. Until last week.

I LOVE Christmas. When the kids were tiny, and we had no money, I would try every imaginable way to surround them with Christmas on a shoestring budget. We made ornaments out of old Christmas cards and scraps of fabric. We went down to the tree lot and asked for all the sawed off branches and I made wreaths and boughs and put them all around the house. One year, a friend who was a florist gave me a bunch of miniature tress that were overstocked at her shop. Enough for me to have a tree in each of the kids rooms, our room, and the kitchen. She and I made "theme" trees. We cut out blue and pink felt hearts and put them on the girls tree, we got a pack of hockey and baseball cards and tied them with red ribbons to Bry's tree. We took Celestial Seasonings tea bags that I "borrowed" from my mother-in-law's pantry and put them on the kitchen tree. It was a glorious feeling to walk around our little house and see each room aglow.

Over the years, the kids have grown, the themes of the trees have changed, but NEVER the desire to have their trees out at Christmas. Bry is always the first one to ask for his tree. Last year, when Caris changed her room colors to sage green, black, and white, she went and bought vintage-style buttons and made new black and white ornaments with black feathers for her tree. It's really beautiful. I was joyful at her enthusiasm to embrace this little tradition that started with such humble means.

Averie was in the throes of finals hell this time last year. She was in no mood for Christmas and could only concentrate on getting through her exams. I did know, however, that I wasn't going to let Christmas pass without her having her tree. But now, I struggled over a theme. She wasn't a blue and pink felt heart type of girl anymore. In fact, those blue and pink felt hearts had been put away long ago and she just had lights and a snowflake garland on her tree for years. When she came home from school for Christmas, I really wanted to surprise her with something that would make her forget her school stress. Something that would make her laugh. I remembered that she and her boyfriend Ryan are big Stephen Colbert fans. So I made a "Truthiness" tree. I spent hours cutting red, white, blue, and yellow stars and pasting little pictures of Stephen Colbert on them with Colbert slogans like "I AM America", "42% More Patriotic", and "Make Fun, Not War". I also made miniature, red foam wristbands and wrote "WRISTSTRONG" on them and strung them on the tree. I put it in her room, and waited for her to come home for Christmas. I've never seen a bigger smile. Not just hers, but Ryan's as well. They took pictures, brought friends home to see it and Ryan commented that he was jealous that his mom didn't go through that much trouble at Hanukkah for him...EVER.

It was a hit. Obviously a bigger hit than I thought. Because now she was asking to take it to her OWN home. Apparantly, when she asked, my face went sheet-white, because she waved her hand in front of my face. "Mommy, are you okay?"

"Huh?..Oh, yeah. I'm okay." But I really wasn't. I was sad. I was feeling that empty-nest pit in my stomach again. When she asked if she could go up in the attic and get her tree to take it home with her. I admit, I wasn't helpful. I didn't help her identify where it might be up in that dark, scary place. So, she left without it at Thanksgiving. I felt bad. But in "truthiness", not that bad.

Last night, Charlie brought all the Christmas bins down. I went through and found all the trees. I took each of the kid's trees into their rooms and put them on their dressers, and I brought the Truthiness Tree into the office formerly known as Averie's room. I put it on the desk and lit it up. It made me laugh out loud. It's a great tree.

Suddenly, that pit in my stomach was replaced with joy in my heart. My daughter loves this tree. She loves this tree so much, she wants to take it with her. I should be thrilled. I reflected on all the years of Christmasses; those lean, and those plenty, and of the simple traditions that my kids have adored because I adored them. I thought about how they talk of their little trees with their friends and how proud they are to tell them of the kick their mom gets out of making them, and how hopefully, one day, they will tell their own kids how much these trees mean to them.

Besides, in the spirit of Stephen Colbert, I think I'm 42% more Christmassy than your average celebrant. Which just means I get to go to the store and find a new little tree to put in Averie's old room...::ahem:: I mean, my new office.