I have vivid memories of helping my grandmother decorate her tree. It was artificial, and the one in my home was always real. I recall the stringing of the lights, the placing of the ornaments, the weird smell of plastic in place of the fresh scent of pine. There was the white ceramic tree that was lit from within which my grandmother made herself in ceramics class (trend of the 70's in the South) with little plastic things resembling Christmas light bulbs that stuck into holes. I loved filling in the holes one by one, strategically placing the colors so that there were no two reds or greens side by side.
Yesterday, my kids and I made the hour drive to my grandmother's home, the same house she has lived in since before I was born, to help my mom put out the Christmas tree. Memories flooded my heart on the drive down, of all the Thanksgivings and Christmas tree nights and Christmas Eves spent in that home. Of all the cornbread dressing and turkey and Co-Cola (as my grandmother pronounces it). Of all the love. Of all the history and family inside that little brick home.
It was a much different experience yesterday than when I was little. My grandmother sat on the couch, mostly silent, watching my children place ornaments on her tree. She smiled a lot, but spoke little, and she never even stood up the whole two hours we were there. She is fading. Quickly. And my heart just hurts in knowing that one of the sweetest parts of my history will be leaving the earth soon.
I know that in years to come I will carry one of the most bittersweet Christmas memories with me... of my grandmother saying, "I don't remember my Christmas tree ever looking so pretty..." Of her sweet smile. Of her watching my children with such joy, though she can barely hear what they are saying. Of her telling me, "You just let them put the ornaments wherever they want to." It's a far cry from the grandmother of my childhood, but I've been so blessed to see her live this long. 91 years of life. More and more amazing each time I think of it.
Thank you, Lord, for such a loving grandmother who has provided me with a heart full of memories and love.