My nose is stuffy, I can't stop sneezing, my throat's all scratchy, my ears are painful, I have to breath through my mouth, I walked two miles today in the wind and the cold, I worked many long hours this month but can't take any days off now, and we're really testing the minimum heat law in Connecticut with our thermostat set at 61 at night... but all of that goes away when I come home and see this:
Because this Saturday, we picked out ornaments. And this Sunday, we drove to the farmer's market to pick up lentils for homemade stew and flour for homemade cinnamon buns, and then after that we steered our Volvo 240 Wagon to the cut-your-own-tree farm for the second bit of happiness. My new husband and I stood there, cradling our cups of hot cider, gazing at the vast fields scattered with Christmas Trees. All of the trees were different shapes, sizes and personalities. Some were tall and skinny, others were short and fat. Some were elegant, grand even, some were comfortable, some were in need of friendship and some were offering up their supple branches to the nearest passerby with a promise of heavily laden ornaments and tinsel. Then the snowflakes started falling, Greg quipped, "This is quaint", and with a mischievous smile and a squeeze of my hand, he pulled me off the in the direction of where our little Christmas Tree was waiting. It took us an hour to be sure, by which time our toes were completely numb and we had already walked back to our first choice. It was a pale, frosty blue looking tree, wider than it was tall, waiting for us like an old friend at the back of the room: it saw us before we saw it.
This day was unique, because I'm Jewish, and I'm from Arizona, and I've never had a Christmas Tree in my life. I have, however, throughout my childhood, stared longingly into windows of cheery homes, each with their carefully decorated conifers whispering of family together and things flavored with cinnamon. In my family, Christmas evening meant Blockbuster movie rentals; Christmas day was for deli meats off of a Costco Party platter or sometimes Chinese take-out. Every year on Christmas, I would imagine other families settled around the real or imagined hearth, enjoying a tradition that I couldn't be a part of.
But now that we have our little family together, Greg and I can make of these traditions what we will. For Greg, who was raised with many Christmas traditions, it reminds him of being a little kid, of growing up on a farm, and of feeling the love of his family around him. It reminds him that we both like to have a home with a real or imagined hearth ourselves. It speaks to our settled nature, our two dogs that we treat like children, and that at this time of the year there are things more important than work and the daily grind.
For me, I've been living Christmas vicariously through Greg's memory and Greg's family without any traditions of my own to reference. So I don't have that childhood recollection to fall back on; my memories are of exclusion and denial. Now? Now I am included, now I am a part, now I am Jewish and I can decorate our home, bake cookies and wrap presents - not just for those around me, but for my own happiness as well.