COLUMN: Don’t Mind the Mess – Tinsel Trees and Lavande Angels




The Christmas spirit seemed to be slipping away this year, so I decided that a little red and green around my house might help.

Rummaging through my own collection of mismatched but cherished decorations, I pulled out a storage container full of my mom’s Christmas treasures.

There are tiny red bows and miniature garland trees, small candle holders, silk poinsettias, and glass angels – an apartment-sized adornment for a lady who always wanted to make her home pretty for the holidays. , without creating too much clutter.

As I tenderly picked up each small piece, big tears formed in my eyes as I smelled their scent. How? ‘Or’ What? How do even ceramic figurines take on the scent of the lavender cologne she loved?

Even after all this time, everything in this box still smells of my mom’s hug.

I was instantly transported to our last Christmas together. She was showing me those little garland trees that she had found at the Dollar Store. She was as excited as a little girl, looking for the right end table or the right bookcase to display them.

When she neatly put them away after this Christmas season was over, did she know that the next pair of hands to hold them would be mine?

So it was there.

With that thought came huge waves of relentless sorrow. But this time, I was ready for them. What once took my breath away has now swept through my heart like a warm, familiar tide, caught up with me and rocked me like a canoe across the ocean. I knew this tsunami of emotions could sink me for a while, but not drown me. I swam in the stream, kissing the tears instead of fighting them. Lavender-scented angels watched over me as the waves slowly calmed down.

So it is, in a season so rich in nostalgia. Every Christmas carol, every bell, every holiday movie, every Currier & Ives card takes me back to the days when all the people I loved were still here, and not up there. When we could still take ourselves for granted shamelessly and happily.

After all this time, these waves of emotion still surprise me, but they don’t overwhelm me anymore. Somehow, they bring with them a sort of confusing comfort; sign that I have not forgotten her, even if life without mercy – and fortunately – has evolved.

I have learned that grief is like a Christmas tree – it demands accommodation.

When you bring it home for the first time, you wonder where you will put it. It is too big. The branches block the window. But ultimately you move things around and find a place for it. Soon, instead of being an intrusion or an obstacle, its presence becomes part of the room, like the lamp or the sofa. His sight comforts you.

Like this tree, the “missing she” was the only thing I saw at first. Like the Grinch, my heart had to do some stretching to make room for it. This required some adaptation. And it hurt. These growing pains changed me in ways I never imagined. They got me to make a difference in my life and to prioritize the things that really matter.

And they have given me empathy for others who are also sailing these unexpected waves.

Mom’s little garland trees now surround my nursery. The ceramic shepherd and kings happily made room for them. Mary smiles serenely at the baby Jesus. And the lavender-scented angels kindly watch over them.

You never know when that last Christmas will be. But I know that in heaven there is a blue eyed angel singing a sweet Christmas carol as I hunt in this box of ornaments. And maybe she happily says to the other angels, “Oh my God, look at this. She still remembers me.”


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