Scaling Back For The Holidays Helped Me Heal


couple with child outside in the snow
What one mother learned one miserable December about holidays, family and being satisfied.

The longer I sat, though, watching the two people I loved most enjoying the scene, waving at the animatronics reindeer, their breath dancing above their smiling mouths, the more I began to realize that anger was the thing I least needed that Christmas. Something shifted.

I became aware of something else... a sense of possibility, even... a fullness. I recognized that this might be it: my little family might stay this size forever and, if it did, I did not want to go on feeling as if something was always missing, as if I was missing, too. 12 Ways To Love Yourself First


When we got home, I told Frank he could get the smallest tree from the attic. My son looked up from his trucks.

"Just the tree," I instructed.

Frank frowned, but I didn't think I could look at all the ornaments, collected over the decade we had been together, a partnership that until recently had flowed uninterrupted from one happy event to the next. But clearly, the tree couldn't stand there, bare.

"Can I deck-rate?" my son asked, clapping.

I looked at my boy, his eyes hopeful, sticky fingers holding his favorite little yellow tractor, spinning the tiny wheels with fascination, and then I sent Frank for a spool of thread.

To the boy, I said, "Bring Mommy the tractor, okay?"

I cut a six-inch length of thread and slid it through the window of my son's favorite little yellow tractor, tied a knot, dangled it and placed it back in my son's hand, pointing him toward the tree, where he placed it on a branch, nearly quivering with excitement.

I threaded them all—the miniature orange dump truck, the tiny multi-colored racecar, the egg-sized blue recycling truck, the small faded red 18-wheeler, the dented green backhoe—and watched as my only child tramped from tree to truck box in his footed green sleeper, his giggles balm to my battered but recovering spirit.

Over the next year, I became interested in decorating again, but never returned to our previous much-too-much methods. The vistas got smaller, more personal, focused on my child's awkward and lovely handmade offerings.

It's been 14 years now since we made the truck tree. While my now-towering teenage son doesn't really remember it, I do. Each D-Day since, the first thing we place on the tree is that little yellow tractor. When he was 3 years old, our second-born son had the honor, and I remember him asking, "Why putting a truck on the tree?"

I couldn't answer him precisely, except to say that without it, I'd feel that something was missing. Forget Shopping And Celebrate What Matters

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