Though our home is decorated early every year with all of our Christmas elves, the tree gets decorated last. It’s usually up by Thanksgiving, but the ornaments get added later. That’s because decorating it is a two-day endeavor.

First, the ornaments — in many plastic bins — have to be brought up from the basement. The older I get, the longer it takes to drag those suckers up the stairs, and though I haven’t purchased a new ornament in years, the bins seem to get heavier every year. With their original boxes long lost, most of the ornaments are either individually wrapped in tissue and packed in old See’s Candies boxes or bubble-wrapped and stowed in zipper bags or containers.

It takes a long time to finish the tree because the decorations are a bittersweet walk down memory lane. Each and every ornament has a story behind it. Some bring laughter, others bring tears.

Almost all are very old. A few are from before I was born, when my great-grandmother scraped and saved to buy a few glass trinkets to put on their tree. Many were my mom’s favorite ornaments from our tree when I was growing up.

The homemade macaroni ornaments my kids made for me are always placed front and center to remind me of particularly sweet Christmas memories. The homemade birds’ nests — and the one real that fell from a tree one year — are remembrances that are placed as near to the trunk of the Christmas tree as they are deep in my memory bank.

I can’t forget the kids’ freshman years in college when they had no money, but were proud to give me purchases from the campus store — ornaments with the names of Smith and Holy Cross. I usually put those next to the Hallmark keepsakes that say "Baby’s First Christmas," one 1977, the other 1979. From the years in between, there are Spode ornaments my kids saved to buy with their newspaper route money.

The small white birds that I plucked from the funeral sprays on the coffins of my grandmother, mom and dad, they traditionally perch close to the top of the tree, reminding me of the family keeping watch all year long.

I hang on the tree the hood ornament salvaged from when the front end of our 1992 Chrysler Town & Country was totaled by a deer on Thanksgiving morning on Route 7 on our way to dinner with cousins. (We never made it to dinner!)

These are a few of my cherished Christmas flashbacks. There are dozens more baubles and the stories that go with them.

This year, whether because of the pandemic or the realization that there are more Christmases behind me than ahead of me, I dreaded putting up those beloved ornaments. I worried it would be a day of more tears than smiles.

So, I did something totally different. It only cost me around $16, thanks to Amazon Fresh, and less than 20 minutes to decorate the tree completely in candy canes. Better still — I’ll spend even less time taking the whole thing own after the new year. It’s a very tasteful tree!

Next year, I promised myself, our tree will be decorated with the cherished ornaments. There will be plenty of people gathered round to enjoy stories they’ve heard a million times — but will somehow tolerate one more time, perhaps with the help of a lot of wine!

Lynette Martin,

North Babylon

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