That’s how many years it’s been. That’s how many there are.
That’s how old he’ll be.
Christmas always makes me wistful for the past, nostalgic even — for the days of sweet little voices clamoring to put the first ornament on the tree and arguing over who gets to put the star on top. Some ornaments in particular are what have me a bit melancholy this year as well. You see Sonny Boy got engaged this past August. His Girl is a sweet girl (woman, really — but they’re young, and I digress…) whom we adore and look forward to embracing into the family August next at their wedding.
Twenty-two years are the number of Christmases I’ve had with him. Twenty-two ornaments received as gifts from his grandparents over the years. The first few were candy caned numbers with cute little animals clinging to them to mark how many Christmases he’s celebrated 1 ..2 ..3 ..4 ..5.
As he grew the ornaments changed as his interests changed: assorted baseball themes, a pet turtle, cars and driving. I’ve saved every box they came in; wrote on the bottom each year it was given. Each year he would dig his out of the Rubbermaid storage tub, unwrap them from tissue or bubble wrap and hang them all in a line across/around the tree. The empty boxes would get passed off to us and we’d stuff the tissue or half-popped bubble wrap back inside and stack the empty little boxes back into the Rubbermaid tub. There was always so much laughter! and stories of “do you remember this one?” — even during the tense mid-teen years. There would always be a fire in the grate, and hot chocolate, made-from-scratch in recent years, with lots of whipped cream.
We put the tree up a few days ago. It wasn’t the same, and my Mother’s Heart was feeling a little empty. Two of the three kids have moved out (and amazingly back in with each other, but that’s another story) so it was just Sugar Bug, the Husband and me. Sugar Bug spent most of her time taking Snapchats and wrapping herself in the red string beads instead of the tree, entertaining herself while we hung ornaments. There was still laughter, but not as much nor as loud. There was still homemade hot chocolate, just a smaller pot. The whipped cream was overflowing! My heart realized that Christmas in Our Home will never be the sort that all these memories have been made of. My head has known this day would come but it was always “some day” and seemed so far off in the future.
I’m trying to not let the longing for nostalgia and the memories overwhelm the joy that we will be celebrating this Christmas season. I’m trying really, really hard. I catch myself staring into …nothing… and realize my thoughts have drifted and my eyes have wandered over to our semi-barren Christmas tree, where twenty-two additional ornaments used to hang. These same little boxes in their own little tub waiting to go to their new home.
That’s how old I was when I had him. That’s how old Sonny Boy will be when he takes His Girl as his wife.
And they will start collecting special ornaments with special memories of their life together for their own Christmas tree.
And suddenly this Mother’s eyes are puddling up. Not with the longing for the past, but with the anticipation of the future.