Personal holiday memories

Submitted to Community Café

The thing I love most about the holidays is how it brings such warm memories to mind.  As I start to pull decorations out of the boxes, I recall who gave them to me or where I bought them and the years prior that I used them. 
In our family room, I set up a table more for decoration than serving, but it does get use on Christmas and New Years as I love holding "progressive dinners" or a holiday "open house".  On the table I place a large tablecloth that my husband brought me from Germany.  I've used it every year for the last 25 years.  I put out beautiful embroidered placemats that were given to me by my best friend.  We were shopping together one December weekend about 15 years ago, and I saw them and fell in love.  They were a gift that Christmas.  On the table is a "put together" candle arrangement using crystal aperitif glasses that belonged to one of my favorite aunts.  Christmas at her home was always very special.  It was from her that I continued the tradition of a Holiday Open House for friends and family to visit.  The lovely red cardinal votive holders were a gift to myself just last year.  My favorite florists shoppe had their holiday sale and I saw them as soon as I walked through the door and as they say "I just had to have them"! 
My mother, my sisters and I have a tradition of making tiny gingerbread houses on Thanksgiving Day.  We then take some home and the sweet smell of gingerbread stays in the room for weeks  They are always on a table fairly close to the tree as they are as just as much a tradition in our family.  I can't even recall when that one started. It may even be the beginning of my creativity.
My tree is always very very simple.  White lights and no tinsel.  When we lived farther north, we would go into the woods and cut a cedar tree.  Once in a while a scrawny pine tree made it home.  As I put up the tree, I remember the kids running through the woods yelling, "This one is perfect, no this one!"  Once when my youngest daughter was a teenager, she and I went out to find a tree and got the pickup truck stuck in the mud.  This was before cell phones and we started walking the 5 miles home, but my husband was getting worried and had come to look for us.  There was a lot of mud on the truck and on us, but that tree was really special.  I now have an artificial tree but always spray it with an evergreen smell and try to find some pine or cedar boughs to place near it.  The ornaments are mostly glass and many I have had since my children were small.  Some are my mothers and some from my grandmother.  They come out to be caressed, cried over, and placed gently back in their boxes when the tree comes down.  Many of those have already been passed down to my daughters. They are placed carefully on their trees, out of reach of their grandchildren.  
I always smile through my tears this time of year.  So many years have come and gone.  So many happy memories stored in my heart.  I celebrate the love of the season with every decoration.  May you all smile through your tears, and let your memories warm you.