Was not expecting this. Just a cold icy end to Thanksgiving weekend. A good day to put up the tree with Christmas music playing in the background. Just like dozens of years before. Where once it was accompanied by tons (seemed like tons) of children, helping, laughing, fighting, it is now peaceful and quiet. Funny, that does not bother me. All my children and grandchildren live fairly close and I see them often and talk to at least one of them everyday. I am never lonely or miss my children, they are still a huge part of our lives. Actually, the biggest part of our lives.
So why are these tears falling down my cheeks? As I strategically place each ornament on the branches, just like in years past, my favorite ones, the homemade ones, receive the places of honor, front and center. They are the ones made of construction paper and yarn, popscicle sticks and glue. A school picture adorns the front and “To Mom and Dad” or “MaMa and PaPa” is written on the back. They are priceless to me, probably some of the most precious things I own. They take me back in time like nothing else. It isn’t the pictures of my children, the ones twenty-five years plus that get to me the most. It is the ones of my oldest grandchildren, Lexi, Brett, Kyson and Bryce. Seeing the pictures of them when they were two or three years old, I pause and realize I now have strong hints of the adults they will become. They are such sweet, good kids. That cute little girl is now less than a year away from the age I was when I got married. The other night she curled up to PaPa on the couch and had a heart to heart with him about boys and life and later told her Mom, “PaPa gives good advice.” The three boys, who range in age from almost 16 to just turning 13, have been best friends all their life. Now they are way taller then me and their deep voices startle me when they speak. All three of them are here in an instant if Grandma calls and says we need help. They have cleaned out the chicken house and goat barns for us, helped mulch the gardens, hauled bales and bales of hay, cleaned the shop, and helped put brakes on semi-trucks. I don’t know what we would have done without their help butchering chickens, turkeys and rabbits this past year. They are all great kids, going through the usual ups and downs of teenager-hood, but I know, just like the toothless grins smiling at me from the decades old ornaments, these kids will make it to adulthood with strong character, strong faith and a deep love and appreciation for the blessing God gave them with this big extended family. And I love them, and I’m grateful, and I’m a little sad that maybe I haven’t appreciated it enough. I make a vow that I will start right now, even as I know life will once again take over and get in the way, and I will make the same vow a year from now. But, I know it’s OK and I am overwhelmed with the feeling of being blessed. And I continue to put ornaments on the tree, and I smile, and another tear slips down my cheek.