That's what it feels like as I take down the Christmas tree. In fact, if it were up to me, I'd leave it up for another week. Henry is asking to help take it down though and I figure I'd better strike while the iron is hot. Last week when I told him that Christmas was over, he and his brother burst into tears. I pictured the tree up until October. But now the ornaments and handmade decorations are being packed away for next year. As I remove each one from its hook, I think of the memories we've made as a family.
There are few keepsakes from my own childhood. My mother never enjoyed Christmas and if I made holiday decorations in school, they are long forgotten. We lived in a series of apartments. Even if there had been room to store my childish creations, a few were probably lost with each subsequent move. Although I cannot keep every single item my children produce in their classrooms and at our kitchen table, I can save a lot of them. Today I put all of their paper, wooden and foam ornaments in a shirt box and carefully placed them next to a container of glass ornaments. They are just as precious. (My current favorite is the popsicle stick Rudolph, complete with googly eyes and red pompom nose.)
Next, I pack away the store-bought ornaments reflecting my children's ages and interests. I know they are overpriced but I have a weakness for Hallmark ornaments. I must be their marketing department's dream. I just can't resist buying one (or two) every year. Both boys have several ornaments representing their first Christmases. Recently I've been purchasing ones that remind me of the fun we've had during the previous months. This year there were trains, tiny story books and Disney characters hanging from the branches. Of course picture frame ornaments are a must-have as well. They are so inexpensive at the craft store but truly priceless as the years pass.
It's a lot of work--setting up the tree, decorating it, maintaining it (ie., replenishing the candy canes and reshaping the tugged-on branches and lights) then taking it all down a few weeks later. Especially on my own, working full time and with all the other household chores that don't stop for the holidays. But I want my children to discover these ornaments one day and realize how much they and their precious keepsakes meant to me. An ornament box is really a time capsule. The creations, milestones and photos are tangible reminders of the love that grows in our home. And yes, it's bittersweet. I'm starting from scratch. I can't say I was raised this way. I'm just making it up as I go along and doing the best I can.