I was sitting in my room, knitting a hand warmer (out of necessity!) and watching the wedding episode of the Office, when my mother called. She wanted to tell me about my sister, about how my mother and she decorated the Christmas tree this year, just the two of them, how my sister took the greatest care to arrange each and every ornament on the prickly limbs (even the ratty elementary school projects my mom was trying to hide by the chair). My sister got a little miffed at my mom’s lackadaisical attitude towards the Christmas-afying, and my mother wasn’t understanding the ‘tude until she realized that my sister’s attention to this family ritual was an expression of her love for her siblings. My little sister knows that every year before, my other sister, brother and I good-naturedly bicker about who affixes the porcelain dove over a tree light. She knows that for years we fought over the height-wise placement of my A&M ornament and their UT ornaments. She knows that the clothe Santa and Mrs. Clause must be placed together, and that every tattered ornament represents a memory which must be recognized and appreciated by the ornament’s display. So this year she took care to place them all exactly as we would have placed them.
My mom told me this, and I bawled. I’m very happy to be living in Armenia, but I am so so sad to be missing one of the most precious moment-makers of my life which I share with my little sister every year: decorating the Christmas tree. We’ve been doing it with determination despite the natural spreading of other family member’s priorities, and for the last few years, only she, my mother and I have enjoyed this Christmas devotion together. My mother sits on the couch, pulling reindeer and gilded paper angels out of tissue paper, and handing them to us to hang. And for at least the last six or seven years, it has been me who has lifted her onto my shoulders to put on the star.
I know that it’s right for me to be here, but the hardest thing about it is missing moments like that. Heart-wrenchingly hard.
So, for now, we have a new tradition. My mom and sister’s idea. (Praise God for Skype!!!) We meet via the interweb, and Macey shows me how she’s done. This year she lifted the computer up, took me around the tree to visit the Paper Plate Angel and The Box With a Prayer Inside, a prayer that I haven’t read since I wrapped it up that Christmas of 1993. She giggled while raising the computer up so I could see the prominent placement of the UT ornament, and laughed louder when she lowered me down to see my bottom-dwelling A&M ornament, turned backwards on the lowest branch. She carried the computer rapidly around the tree, trying to help me find the Christmas Pickle (which really meant showing me a 3×4 swirly light show)
Then, she took me to the tin holding the Nightmare Before Christmas ornaments. This is the only set that includes one for each family member (although sister-in-law’s and Mom’s are still fluid), and mine, a very skeletal Barrel (she’s holding it in the picture at the top of the post), was waiting for me to place on the tree via skype via my sister’s little hands. I had heard that there was a new volleyball picture of hers on the tree this year, so I instructed her to place my ornament next to it.
What followed was a long conversation with my sister and then mother about the upcoming holiday season, the absolutely hilarious antics of my mother as her coworker’s Secret Santa, the pondering on the whereabouts of the packages my parents sent to me weeks ago, and of course, what is currently available to eat (and for me to dream about) from their kitchen.
The new, or shall we say ‘interim’, Skyping tradition was concluded with the rendition of the Christmas song of my choice. I selected “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, and they sung it with a gusto that about bowled me over from thousands of miles away.
Can you possibly argue that someone does Christmas spirit better? I mean, just look at this:
I daresay, you cannot.