Eleanor, my mother-in-law who died five years ago, was a magical tree decorator. She spent many years working at greenhouses, such as Echter's and Paulino's, putting up and then decorating the twinkling, fantastical forests of trees. She would decorate trees all day, full time, for over a month each year. And yet, there was still joy in decorating her own tree at home. Every year I studied her technique and asked her for pointers.
Last night I took Ellie and Kohlton to Echter's to experience some of the magic that I thought we would find there. While it is beautiful, it is just not the same. They no longer have the twinkling, decorated forest of trees to shop from. They still have nice trees, but it is not just the same magic.
Over the years we have been tempted to buy a fake Christmas tree, but if we did, I would feel like we were loosing a little bit of our connection with Eleanor, honoring her spirit of Christmas a little bit less. She would never begrudge us for making that choice, but I just don't see us going there anytime soon. Each beautiful, twinkling tree reminds me a bit of her.
We also include other family members in our holidays by using things that had once belonged to them. At some of our dinners we use the carafs that my uncle won as trophies playing tennis. When we have a formal dinner we use the real silver place settings that once belonged to my Aunt Zora. It makes me feel like we are able to hold on to the line of loved ones, even if it is just a little bit.