[Special to the Perspective] — I’m feeling emotional today, which is par for the course this time of year, although some days I’m more so than others. Today is one of the “extremely-more-so” days … so it was probably stupid of me to choose this day to go through two boxes of Christmas decorations. They aren’t mine; they belonged to a neighbor who moved to a different state last summer. She took a few ornaments that trace back to when her now-adult daughter was a baby, and gave the rest to me. She hasn’t seen or talked to her daughter in a long time, and she doesn’t care to.
As I’m going through these two boxes I’m overcome by memories, happy and joyful memories of Christmases past, celebrated with three children I love too much to even begin to describe. Later, when grandchildren were added to the mix, my Christmases grew even more love-filled and even more memorable. That love and those incredible memories were trying hard to dominate my mind as I went through the two boxes of decorations — but they weren’t winning the battle. They were squeezed out by shock and grief that someone could simply toss years of memories away like that. I’m able to read people quite well and I could tell that she just didn’t care. “Take what you want and either donate the rest or put them out by the curb with your trash,” she told me.
Thinking I hadn’t heard her, I asked if she was absolutely certain and she assured me she was.
Many of the decorations are dated … 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982. Obviously the family chose a special ornament each year, and I thought of the ages my own children were during each of those years. I remembered our annual tradition of going to a Christmas store and choosing one special ornament together, and then going to get our tree. I thought of the stockings I hand-made for them when they were toddlers (stockings they still love to this day). I thought of the ornaments that each of them made for me in school, all of which I still have and still hang on the tree year after year. Those thoughts were lovely, but as I was getting lost in them I couldn’t help feeling like I was violating someone’s personal space. As though I had no business pawing through those boxes, touching those colorful glass balls and birds and angels and bells and Santas and rocking horses … precious possessions and memories that belonged to someone else and not to me.
Mostly what I felt, though, was despair that any parent could be ambivalent about seeing his or her child … at Christmas time, or any time. That is simply inconceivable to me, as I look at my children and grandchildren and feel like there’s no way my heart can possibly hold all that love. And just when I think it’s filled past capacity, more love for a family that means the world to me somehow finds a way in.
I’ll pray for her. I don’t know whether she cares, or whether it will do any good, but I’ll pray anyway.
Author Peggy J. Parks has written more than 100 nonfiction educational books for children and young adults on topics ranging from environmental science, the Internet, and space research to controversial issues such as gay rights, animal experimentation, stem cells, and drug legalization. Two of her titles were recognized as “Best Books” of the year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition, she wrote and self-published the cookbook Welcome Home: Recipes, Memories, and Traditions from the Heart.