Amid a box of old ornaments, a fake tree, and a yellowing note that said “Pat’s” …

Simply put, it’s been a tough year. It is with great anticipation and high expectations I look forward to the coming of 2015.

For the first time, in I think a lifetime; I started this season wanting to rush past Christmas. “What!!???!!” I can hear all of my siblings exclaim! I have always been known to them as the sibling of Christmas. I didn’t rush through the holiday the year my Dad died—age 13 – I hoisted that fake tree up the basement steps- when my mom left the house to do errands. “We don’t need the tree and all that this year, Patty, we’ll just put out a few little things.” she said. I thought otherwise, and my Mom’s youngest was, and always has been a stubborn one. I can still see her face when she walked back in the door- surprise, a bit of anger, and in her blue eyes-a tiny twinkle of Christmas magic. She didn’t say a word at first. It took her until dinner, by the lights of the tree that night, she just kept looking over and shaking her head at me, but she was smiling. “You did a good job” was all she said. She let me have my tree, that year, and every other year-and when she passed-she left a note on the Christmas boxes that simply said “Pat’s.” My last gift from my Mom.

My Mom’s been gone a good number of years, and I have put up that old, fake tree, and every decoration bequeathed to me ever since. I love that tree and everything that came with it. This year, it took some effort-diabetes, cancer, the passing of my beloved Aunt, emergency surgeries, moving, and more- I was at a loss for Christmas motivation. But I’ve got kids, and I was a kid whose Mom almost didn’t put up a tree one year, so I know—that will never do. My stubborn nature still serves me well-so I mustered it up and once again- hoisted that tree up the basement stairs for another year.  It still looks pretty good, to me anyway, and I was brought to tears hearing my kids say “Hey! this was your Mom’s!”  “Wasn’t the topper your Dad’s favorite?”  “I think this is your favorite, right Mom?” That tree and how much my children know about the meaning of each tiny ornament- turned my Christmas spirit around.

tree 2

The tree reminded me-Christmas is not about the damage cancer, diabetes, or any other hardship tries to inflict. Christmas is about remembering and cherishing-old and new. Realizing all of the difficulty life brings–can’t steal the shine off our tree of life.

Without a doubt the bond of 10 kids, who grew up fighting for space in a 1200 square foot cape cod, has been the brightest, shiniest, ornament on my tree of life. We don’t get to see each other often—but we are there by hook or by crook when the going gets tough. My parent’s- they struggled—to keep a roof over our heads, food on the plates, but never struggled to show the love they had for each other, all of us and in turn- teach us what a treasure family is—treasures like old Christmas ornaments.

I’ve been lucky, to land friends throughout my life, who have been there for me in ways I can never repay or thank them for. They are the sparkly lights on my tree of life—examples of the meaning of Christmas- shining brightly- all year long.

I lost my parents pretty young, but in adulthood was given the gift of ‘new’ parents—my in-laws. I have never been anything but another daughter to them—I have always felt like we have known and loved each other forever. I gained a sister too—who knows how to make me laugh –even when laughing doesn’t come easy. Not to mention the extended family- the greatest Grandparents I could have ever asked for-the uncles, aunts, cousins- in great number – all wonderful new ornaments on my tree of life.

My own little unit-my husband and children. I think of them like my cherished Nativity set. It doesn’t matter if we are in a stable or a grand hotel—life is good because we are together.

So, I almost lost the glory of what this season really is. I almost let cancer, diabetes, and all the rest cast a shadow on the most brilliant light of all-God’s love. Jesus- born to Mary and Joseph- getting through their own hard times-with their family and friends, in a stable, full of love and light and wonder.

Thankfully-amid a box of old ornaments, a fake tree, and a yellowing note that says “Pat’s” I remembered the true meaning of Christmas.

Wishing you and yours a Happy and Love filled Christmas & may your expectations of 2015 be met!

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