Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Traditions - A time for transitions

Christensen Family Christmas Tree
In 1990, the first Christmas for Cathy and me as a newlywed couple, was a memorable and fun time together.  Ironically, we lived in the basement apartment of the house we now call home. We ordered our first set of ornaments from the JC Penny catalog.  The ornaments were an assortment of wood objects from trains, toy soldiers to sleighs.  It was a wonderful year and we realized that we were starting some new traditions together as we brought together traditions from our respective families.  We decided early on, that we wanted a more traditional Christmas tree look and that we wanted more of a variety of ornaments, as opposed to a "particular look". 

In 1991 when Jessica was a newborn baby, we decided to start acquiring an ornament with each year of her life as part of the Hallmark series.  Our initial thought was that as she grew up and moved away, she could take her ornaments with her to start her own tree, starting her own memories.  It became a fun part of our tradition each year to take her and let her pick out what mattered to her that year.  As Sarah came along in 1999, we started with her as well and our tree started becoming full with both of their ornaments.  Along the way friends and family also added to our collection, all with good memories. 

We realized a few years ago, that one day our children would in fact grow up and move away and suddenly there would not only be a void in our tradition, but on the tree as well!  Our original wood ornaments were also starting to fall apart and glue gun repairs weren't always worth it.  We decided to add to our collection, items from experiences that we had or places we've seen.  In our collection there is an ornament commemorating the restoration of the Utah State Capitol, the Nauvoo Temple, Boston, the four corners of Utah, or our recent family cruise to Alaska among many.  As we hang each ornament, we create for ourselves a found trip down memory lane for our family.

However Christmas also becomes a time for transitions.  This year, Jessica was at Utah State when we put up our tree.  It just didn't seem right to hang her ornaments without her, so we just set them aside until this evening when she could join us. While the tree seemed full, our hearts knew something was missing.  We're not sure we like this transition, but I guess it's coming nevertheless.
Jessica's ornaments wait patiently for her return
In addition, as we unpacked our Christmas stockings, we noticed our sock for our dog Daisy, who passed away earlier this year.  While we never hung her stocking with our Christmas Socks, Santa always filled it with some goodies and a new chew bone.  We're not quite sure what to do with it this year, but we can't seem to bring ourselves to just get rid of it.
Daisy's stocking (our nine year old Lab who passed away)
Our own stockings are fun to hang up each year.  When Cathy and I first were married, we found these extra large socks, and it was fun to have Santa fill them with a few extra items.  It left lots of options for those tools, or hair attachments we needed.  However it was clear as the kids came along, that it wasn't a practical alternative for Santa to fill that much, and we went with a smaller option for the kids.  My sister Nancy was kind enough to use her talent on helping create some fun options for us and we enjoy hanging them on the fireplace during December.
Sock artwork created by Carlton's sister, Nancy
Then there is the "original sock".  This sock was the sock that I came home from the Hospital on Christmas Day.  Born on December 23rd, my mother was released to come home with her 10 lb 14 oz child who was 24" tall.  As my mom passed away in 2004 and we went through her Christmas stuff, it was a sock that we couldn't throw away either and reminds me of the Christmas gift my mom always talked about getting that year.
Sock Carlton came home in from LDS Hospital in 1965
Christmas has generally great memories for me, but it has far too often been a time for transitions.  I guess it's only appropriate that Jessica's ornament she purchased this year for her collection has the phrase, "All roads lead home at Christmas".

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