Everything has been redefined by this experience. Jill and I decorated the Christmas tree alone this year. Erik had no heart for it. We are going through the motions of a happy family, and it just doesn’t fit anymore. The Christmas tree is almost an insult, a constant reminder of happier times, forever gone.
We got the tree, because that is the tradition. It sat naked in the corner for days. We finally had to deal with it. Jill organized the decorations while I hung the lights, as usual. When we finished, we set about hanging the ornaments. I dreaded the moment when Jill would hang “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament - the ornament that commemorated Rachel’s first Christmas when she was only six months old. We purchase commemorative ornaments every year, but this particular ornament has the most significance in our family. It was a bone of contention between Rachel and me every year. The ornament has a baby bear in a cradle that rocks when it is plugged into a Christmas light socket. Over the years, the tiny motor began to wear out and the cradle would grind as it rocked. It would annoy me when I would get up early and turn the Christmas tree lights on. I would unplug it, so I didn’t have to listen to the incessant grinding. When Rachel would notice that I unplugged it, she would get upset and demand that I plug it back it. It was HER ornament! There was no way of denying Rachel. She was right. I would relent and plug it back in and grin and bear it as I listened to the grinding.
It’s just a silly ornament, made in China, I am sure. It has a silly history, but it is our history. I always imagined that someday Rachel would be hanging “Baby’s First Christmas” on her own tree in her own home and tell the story to her own children, my grand-children, of how she and I used to fight every year about whether to leave it plugged in or unplugged. That is an impossible dream, now. “Baby’s First Christmas” will always hang on our tree as we grow old together and wonder what might have been and what will never be. Jill and I wept and held each other as we held the ornament and tried to decide where to hang Rachel's ornament. We found the right spot.
I plugged it in.