From Saturday's Briefing:
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Monday, November 26, 2018
Friday, November 23, 2018
|Thanksgiving Day, just before decorating|
Unpacking the ornaments is unpacking our lives. Each ornament has a story:
- Handmade Santa band from Grandma Irene
- Pasta angel handmade from my mom
- Clay Santa that Steve made
- Wooden school bus from Grandma and Papa's trip to Germany
- Bavarian egg from our friend Sarah
- Silver angel from our friend Sharon
- Tiny gingerbread house from the year we moved to Frisco in 2002
- Wooden frog from Aunt Karen to remember my mom
For Cooper's first Christmas, Steve and I started a tradition that I've continued -- an ornament that represents something special about each child for that year. When we pack away the tree in early January, I write a note about the new ornaments. Then in November, when we put up the tree again, we unpack the special ornaments and read the notes -- Buzz Lightyear for the year that Cooper was obsessed, Elmo for that Katie was obsessed, a bicycle for the year that Cooper competed in triathlons, a violin for the first year Katie took lessons.
The idea is that when each child leaves the house for their own home, they'll be able to take a ready-made collection of personal ornaments for their own tree.
Yesterday, after the tree was assembled and we'd fluffed all the branches, we started hanging ornaments. Cooper gets to place his ornaments and Katie hers. I handed Cooper his cowboy (from summer 2010, when we spent a week at a Colorado dude ranch) and asked, "Cooper, will you take all of your ornaments next year to college?"
At about the word "take" I started to tear up.
About that time, Katie walked into the entry with hot chocolate for Cooper. She saw him holding the lone cowboy, and without even looking in my direction, started to cry.
Poor Cooper. Stuck between two trying-to-hold-it-together Damm women who are excited about his future but have trouble imagining the house without him.
He hung the ornament on the tree, hugged us both and said he would probably leave the ornaments at home while he's in college.
No one stays sad for long while decorating a tree. We continued, unpacking ornaments, singing to Christmas music (and skipping the songs no one likes, such as "Baby It's Cold Outside"), drinking cocoa.
Katie complimented Cooper for helping with something (his height is a great advantage for decorating), when he told us, "I'll make a great husband one day. I mean, my future wife has no idea."
We laughed for a while. His random immodest claims always make us giggle. There's no specific ornament for all the laughter (or the tears), but we've got all kinds of memories.
|Our finished tree|
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
From Saturday's Briefing:
Halloween this year was more wistful than frightful.
Katie was at a friend's house for a surprise birthday party plus trick-or-treating extravaganza. Parents were neither explicitly excluded nor invited, which all moms took as a message to stay away.
Cooper chose to skip a costume altogether and instead opted for youth group at church followed by passing out candy at a friend's house.
That left me at home with the dog, a giant bowl of chocolate and memories of Halloweens past, with Davy Crockett, a toddling crab, Indiana Jones, a tiny tiger, Hermione Granger, an adorable skeleton, Dorothy and the Scarecrow.
Not so long ago, Halloween meant a flurry of activity: eating dinner early so that there was real food to cushion all the junk on its way, wrangling costumes onto little bodies, posing for photos, playing in the front yard until the socially acceptable time to start begging for candy, traipsing from house to house, reminding little ones to say "please" and "thank you," stumbling home to sort all of the candy (and eat some of it) before a quick bath and, at last, bed.
As everyone cautions, those years don't last long. In no time, you're sitting on the front porch, waving to doting parents on the sidewalk, giving away handfuls of candy to their tiny children (and sometimes wondering who they're supposed to be because you haven't watching Nick Jr. or Disney Channel in ages).
This first Halloween with two teenagers in the house is probably preparing me for the holiday season to come. There are no more visits to Santa (though he still stops by the house each Christmas Eve). The magic of the Elf on the Shelf has long dissipated (though our elf is stubborn and refuses to leave despite rampant skepticism). My children have their own social calendars, requiring precise coordination and, at times, negotiation.
We aren't shedding any traditions. We'll watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. We'll put the tree up after and decorate the house while reminiscing about Christmases past. We'll shop for gifts for loved ones and folks in need. We'll drink hot chocolate all winter.
We'll still enjoy the magic of the season, but my children are now more involved with making the magic happen, rather than being surprised recipients. It's the kind of shift that parents hope for in theory but struggle with in real life. What happened to the days of matching Christmas sweaters and pipe-cleaner ornaments? How did that time pass so quickly?
Late on Halloween night, when everyone was home again, the three of us caught up. Cooper had carved pumpkins with friends at church and discussed the merits of various NPR programs. Katie had acquired a jack-o'-lantern full of candy with her gaggle of friends. I reported on costume sightings (who doesn't love an inflatable T. rex?) and conversations with neighbors.
Then Cooper attempted to raid Katie's stash of candy. She put up a perfunctory fight before giving in. I swiped a Heath bar or two when no one was watching. It was just like old times.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.