by Jamey Firnberg

The Tree

It’s the home of ornaments handmade by my daughter, my wife, her grandmother and my mother in law. It’s layered with souvenirs from various travels from around the world and ornaments that have been gifted over the years. It also includes an assortment of stuff that should technically be classified as junk. There is a McDonalds Happy Meal toy, an Elf on the Shelf, a Chupa Chups KitPop…

Most of the ornaments are between 20 and 60 years old. They have lived in many houses and survived the destruction of my garage by hurricane Gustav. 

To a stranger they would be considered trash. Even in my house, only a few of them could stand alone, but together they are part of a tradition that brings my family together at a special time. 

For the past 27 years Karen and have I pulled them out of storage and carefully piled them on the tree. Paige joined in 25 years ago.

For the past 7 years, the tradition marks a time that Paige comes home for the holidays. Her presence has a huge impact on our home. For several days Paige and I join together to leave articles of clothing draped on chairs, clutter on the dining table, hair in the sink, and beds unmade. Her fingerprints are everywhere. She fills the house with love and laughter. 

I pull the Christmas decorations from storage and we unpack the boxes and decorate the tree. We put the ornaments on the tree one at a time. Maw-Maw’s handmade balls, Paige’s toilet paper roll candle, the Happy Meal toy, the Elf on the Shelf…

Many have names, like the Christmas Butt Witch, Bah Humbug Angel, and Wooden Canoe. We have the inventory in our heads. If one is missing we diligently hunt it down. We don’t stop until every ornament is on the tree.

I (Scrooge) have not always shared an appreciation for the Happy Meal toy, the Elf on the Shelf and many other assorted “ornaments.” It was a collection of junk that took up space, collected dust, and had to get lifted, toted and stored. I do the lifting and toting. 

However, every year my appreciation for the tradition grows. The Elf and I have come to terms. 

Every year the season ends. 

Paige will load up the Honda and head back to the east coast. 

Karen and I will pack up the ornaments one at a time. Christmas Butt Witch, Paige’s toilet paper roll candle and my old buddy, Elf on the Shelf. We will treasure the memories they have come to represent.

No more clutter on the dining table. No more hair in the sink. The beds are made. There is one less laugh in the house.

My baby girl is gone.