The memory is laced with the faintest scent of pine and cider and the melodies of the Amy Grant Home for Christmas album. I can see my sisters, the Santa hat atop Kara's head crushing her 80's bangs. Rachel is so little, wearing pink footie pajamas and mimicking everything I do. Because, you know, little sisters. We are decorating the tree and my mom is making popcorn in the kitchen and my dad is outside on a ladder, putting lights up higher on the house than my mom wanted. It's wonderful, it's warm, and we are happy.
Every time I go to decorate my own Christmas tree these adult years, I am overwhelmed with the rush of this memory, these glowing little moments. Me and my sisters, shimmying around the tree with the strange lava lights that mom insists were in style back then and draping our construction paper ornaments all willy-nilly. Mom, with her thick glasses and long fuzzy robe. Dad, fussing with the outdoor decor while his acoustic guitar awaits in the corner of the living room. Dad always came in and played some Larry Norman when he was done with his projects.
I am grateful.
Christmas is not always perfect. It can be stressful and fussy and can bring out some of the worst family dynamics. It can cost too much and somehow we eat too much and then in January we have to clean it all up and that is just sad. But the thing is - Christmas is memory. It's one of the strongest. And I don't really remember the difficult times as much as I remember the shocked look of joy of the faces of my family members, each as they unwrapped their dream gift. I remember my dad getting his big screen TV, my sister getting her sought-after leather Steve Madden boots, and my little Ray Ray, getting clothes. Nothing made her happier than just clothes. It's so funny.
Now I am in the phase of life where I am on the other side of the equation, planning and budgeting and baking and shopping. I am creating the framework for my own little family's memories. I am hanging the stockings, stuffing them with toothbrushes and chocolate (??) I am trimming the tree with my chosen ornaments - a mixture of glitter and gold and woodland themed aesthetics. I know that doesn't really go together but I'm the mom now, so I get to make that call. Just like my mom did with those strange lava lights. I love this phase of life more than I could have ever imagined. I can't believe how much I love being a mom and surprising my family with Christmas treats, all the while the Amy Grant Christmas album lilts in the background of my heart. I am happy. An emotional pregnant basket case about 1/3 of the time these days, but absolutely, decidedly, blissfully happy.
Stevie practically did everything to make Christmas happen this year, in terms of decorating. He put up the largest (and best!) tree we've ever had, smattered some extra branches on the mantle and draped the lights, but Everett helped me hang some of the ornaments lower on the tree and he was absolutely giddy. Just like he should be. I was so touched when Marked Moments Keepsakes reached out, wanting to send along a personalized ornament for us to hang on our tree this year. This wooded design is the perfect memory marker for what feels like another nostalgic year - this slice of life with my little family of three just moments before we balloon into a bustling crew of four. I am so smitten with these Christmas moments and I just want to simmer here for a while. And watch my little son hop like a frog in the glow of the lights while listening to Stevie strum the chords to a Johnnyswim song on his own acoustic.
This is it, you guys. These are the moments that make life the absolute "good old days", and I don't want to dismiss a single one.
What are your favorite Christmas memories from trimming the tree - the music? The lights? I'd love to hear about your own sweet holiday moments with your people. Merry Christmas to you, friends. xox.
P.S. - Our Christmas tree hunting experience this year and my NBD phone call with Jillian Michaels (enter the giveaway for her new book over on my instagram!)