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Opening the box of decorations was like opening a box of memories…and it hurt. Little Guy and I put up our Christmas tree Saturday afternoon, after we watched Dr.Suess’ Grinch, curled up together on the couch. I couldn’t find our time-honoured traditional John Denver & the Muppets cd to play, so we made due with some golden “oldies” – Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney…

This box, this big blue plastic box, contained:
•  things that I lovingly hung on the tree when I was a kid, like the lacy angel I bought as a souvenir one Summer trip to Santa’s Village, and my “collection” of feather birds
•  things given to my boys – baby’s first Christmas, the A&W bear, the tiny trains
•  things that Big Guy and Little Guy made in school and Sunday school
• multiple angels and snowmen, glass balls and jingle bells, most of them gifts over the years
• the little wooden “folklore” things my Grandpa had made – the little red popsicle sleds with hand-painted holly, the reindeer with whimsical smiles.

Grandpa was the biggest kid at Christmas. Every year he made brown sugar candy, even after he developed diabetes and couldn’t eat any himself. He would divide it and label everyone’s container. He always delivered his presents days earlier than he needed to, to pile under my parents’ tree. Sometimes they even stayed overnight on Christmas Eve. When Big Guy was little, we had to call them to come over before he was allowed into the living room to see if Santa had visited in the night. Grandpa was the first to hand out the presents, so eager that the little ones hardly had time to look at what they had opened before the next package was delivered.

So many busy Christmas mornings and family gatherings, pulling in others who didn’t have a place to go…Last Christmas, he was too sick to really care that it was Christmas, but we were all together, multiple generations under one roof. We joked that it was a “Walton’s Christmas”! Every year, we make new memories, and I’m very thankful for all the ones I have. This year will be hard because it our first without him, and I know it would be hard, but I hadn’t expected such a simple activity to bring such a flood of emotions.

My tree is now also a mess (to put it politely). Some branches have several decorations on the same branch. Some decorations are even dragging on the ground. There’s no rhyme or reason to where things have gone (bigger things should go at the bottom, the prettiest should be on the front, etc.). Some day I will be free to choose a “perfect” tree like the magazines, instead of opening my box of memories…I hope I will miss that childlike display. So this year I am content to let Little Guy’s joyful exuberance take over. I want Little Guy to make and to have as many happy memories as I do!