This time of year overflows with Strom family traditions. We construct a gingerbread project that symbolizes a meaningful family event from the year. Our mouths water as we anticipate Christmas morning brunch casserole and sticky buns. And, we have ornaments.
Every December my husband and I endeavor to find a new tree adornment for each son that captures a highlight of their previous twelve months. We’ve marked graduations with ribbon-tied scrolls, driver’s licenses with mini cars, and soccer seasons with a ball on a string.
Many of the early ornaments were homemade and humble. Some are simply tacky. Funny how those ones came to be the favorites.
Each year, on the evening when we decorate the tree and enjoy appetizers, our sons pull out the ornaments one by one and recount memories and stories. The contest for “who can get their ornament lowest to the ground without touching” kicks in without prompting. Invariably we end up crying with laughter.
Our tree is full.
And I don’t mean that metaphorically. The basketball player on a string bumps into the drum set which overlaps with “baby’s first Christmas”, times three. A bigger tree is not the answer.
So this year we’re beginning a new tradition, for a few different reasons. We will donate the money we would have spent on ornaments to a worthy cause, and buy just one additional ornament for the collection – something that captures our family’s year. Every year a different son and family will get to choose the donation recipient, and find or make the ornament.
We’ve all bought into the new direction and, there is a gentle sadness attached to the change. We have left a stage of life behind and are forging new territory. My heart embraces the joy of new family members, the fun of adding Christmas memories, and the knowledge that we need to own our traditions and not let them own us.
And, on these quiet, alone mornings, there are tears for the stage now complete. My liquid eyes tell me something good – something really good – has ended and for that I can be sad. But I refuse to stay here. I’ve always said I won’t be “that mother” who demands that a special occasion looks a certain way because it always has. I would rather feel the discomfort of change than subject my family to the tyranny of tradition. It’s time to put those claims into practice.
You see, I suggested the change. My spirit knew it was time to move on and the complex emotion attached doesn’t mean the decision is wrong. Even change I initiate will necessarily involve joy and sadness, gain and loss, excitement and fear. It’s just the nature of change.
I choose to thank God for the abundance of memories and look forward to accumulating many more – memories, not ornaments.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst