More Musings from my Empty (Christmas) Nest

So – your Christmas tree is up, no doubt with the “help” of tiny fingers. Did you “redecorate” once they’d gone to bed? Did you? Be honest now…

Jo Blackwell, Portrait Photographer

Decorating The Christmas Tree – the same thing, every year.

I know so many parents (mainly mums) whose OCD-like need for a perfect Christmas tree makes them twitch when excited toddlers get hold of the baubles or – worse! – hang their cardboard efforts from nursery school. Personally, I loved to see my wonky tree laden down with homemade decs, the lower branches heaving, the upper ones a little sparse until one of them was old enough to reach! There’s time enough for designer loveliness at Christmas when they’ve all left home – right?

For the first time in 31 years, Husband of my Heart and I will be alone this Christmas Day. The last time this happened, we played Scrabble anxiously through my Braxton Hicks contractions, excited at the prospect of becoming parents. This time, we’re at a bit of a loss.

I don’t like the idea of continuing all our family traditions as usual. Keeping things the same when nothing IS the same will only make the empty chairs more poignant.  I began to think about starting new, couple-y traditions of our own.

“Let’s buy a real tree,” I suggested, visions of a romantic afternoon choosing one together dancing in my head. “What’s wrong with our tree?” Husband of my Heart grumbled, puzzled. You need to know something about my husband. Not so long ago he put his arms around me and said, “we’re like a comfy old pair of slippers, you and me, aren’t we?” That’s what passes for romance in my house.

Anyway, off we went last weekend and chose a tree. Always looking to find the positive in the negative, I bought new lights and looked forward to having a proper, sophisticated “scheme” to our decorations for once. After all, no one’s going to walk in and be upset that their toilet-roll-innard decoration isn’t taking pride of place. And I can avoid the moulting tinsel.

“What do you mean, we’re not having tinsel?” Now I had his attention. “You HAVE TO HAVE TINSEL. It’s tradition.” He looked like a petulant seven year old. “I’ll divorce you if we don’t have tinsel!” Blimey!

I finished the tree decorating on my own. Here was Boy 2’s favourite bauble, here’s the sparkly shell we bought on a family holiday in Florida… so many memories, sprinkled with glitter. It was very pretty when I finished it – stylish, even. I gazed at the twinkly loveliness and felt a little bit… bereft. Husband of my Heart was watching something involving a ball. So much for the cosy evening of togetherness I’d envisaged. He clearly hadn’t got over my tinsel embargo, so I went up to bed early.

Jo Blackwell, Writer and blogger

So many memories in cardboard and glitter! Who knew such tat could be so precious?

When I came down this morning, the tree looked like the Andrex puppy had been in the tinsel tin. There was so much festooned on it you could barely see our lovely real tree – we might just as well have put the artificial one up. Not only that, all the old ornaments had been added, lit by extra coloured lights. He’d even made sure they were hung slightly unevenly, so the tree was listing slightly to one side. It seems I am forever destined to have a child-decorated tree in my house.

And suddenly I knew. It’s not only mums who suffer from Empty Nest Syndrome. Dads miss their kids too. They just don’t always know how to show it – except, maybe, through the medium of tinsel!

Happy Christmas!

Mami 2 Five