Week Three:  Thursday

Speaking for myself, two of the loneliest moments in my life occur annually: when I put the Christmas tree up and when I take the Christmas tree down.  It wasn’t always that way, not when I had our two children in the house.  We had a regular method of getting the tree ready:  my husband put the tree in the stand and strung the lights. Then my daughter and I oohed and ahhhed over each ornament we unwrapped, hoping to find our favorite ones first, as we both decorated the tree while listening to the Rhino Christmas Classics’ CD. Next my son would do his part by hanging the only ornament he liked—his little yellow airplane with a white propeller that spun, and then my husband would finish the project by tossing the gold chain with the green coiled tassels on each end across the room and onto the tree.  Where it landed, there it stayed. 

But, as we all know from that great river of life that sometimes moves lazily and other times turns white-water rapid, nothing stays the same.  Our two children are grown and live in other states far from us.  Our son is a father and our daughter is divorced.  Nothing stays the same. This particular year, because of the pandemic, we have agreed that the wisest choice for all of us is not to travel, so we will be without our kids and our granddaughter, and they will be without us.  I almost decided against the tree this winter season because of the loneliness.  

We have never had a themed Christmas tree, though I do think those are lovely. Our tree is, instead, filled with memories, contained in each ornament, all different.  I get a bit teary-eyed putting the ornaments on the tree as I remember times and people that cannot ever be again because nothing stays the same.  And then, I feel that heaviness in my heart when I remove the ornaments and place them back in their boxes because I know yet another Christmas has come and gone, and I and those I love only have so many Christmases granted in our lives.

I am so thankful, though, that the Spirit prompted me to put up not only our tree but just about every other decoration we own, to string bulbs up the stair banister and outside on the bushes, to hang our paper star and set out lanterns, to place each ornament on the tree as an offering of gratitude, of joy, and to let the light not only shine but to immerse myself in its glow.  In the shimmer of the lights, my heart receives the truth that nothing stays the same, and my winter hope is that I will not stay the same, either, that I will come out of this year, out of this pandemic, out of this chaotic time as someone made kinder, gentler, more compassionate, more loving—not just for one day—but for the rest of my days.  In this sacred space, I gaze at the tree with the memories of this one life of mine, at the gifts of joy and sorrow the tree brings each year, at the Light that never fades, and give thanks that these are gifts that make me human, make me who I am, gifts that I treasure.  Blessings to you in your own remembrances.

The tree stands bare in the spill
of white candlelight
that beckons remembrance,
the still air laden with pungent pine.
I unwrap memories
lifted from silk-worn boxes,
and passing years emerge,
reflecting faces mirrored
in each round and shiny ball.

A piece of crumpled tissue drops
and here is the rocking horse
suspended on a crimson string
that marked my son’s first outing,
creamed soup with his aunties,
when he was three. And here,
the fading Polaroid photo
of my daughter’s smiling face
pasted in the middle of a holiday bell,
the sparkling glitter reminiscent
of her five-year old’s laughter.

An angel carved from sea shell
reminds me of my once best-
friend, now divorced
and distanced. We birthed our
daughters the same month.
A cross-stitched cherubim
handmade by a companion
along the way who died
too young takes center place
near the top of the tree.
A widowed neighbor designed
the snowman decked in felt,
with his black pipe,
for each of my mother’s
daughters some forty years ago,
and the sweetgum ball covered
in tin foil by the hands of
my husband’s father, gone
ten years, is a mirror
of his own Christmases past.

Like rainbow-hued lights,
heart-rooted presence is wound
about fragrant branches
that fill the room
reaching to the ceiling
in evidence of the many incarnations
I have lived–
precious as the first brush
of silent snow.

© Rosemary McMahan

Author: remcmahan

Poet, writer, minister, wanderer, traveler on the way, Light-seeker ~ hoping others will join me on the journey of discovering who we are and were meant to be. You can reach me at or at my blog,

2 thoughts on “Reverie”

  1. A new small tree this year with simple new ornaments, mostly pretty birds and berries that a friend helped me decorate and buy at a garden store some weeks ago. No memories attached and your reflection today brings this clearly to my mind. What is it about the memories that I perhaps don’t want to relive that are hidden in the ornaments boxed in the crawl space of our home? What are my “loneliness” memories hidden in the corners of my mind? Thank you, Rosemary for giving me new insights to reflect on these last days of Advent. By the way, your tree is simple beautiful and your poem quite precious.


    1. What interesting questions the Spirit has stirred in you! I think we all have “loneliness” memories we’d just as soon avoid but Advent invites us to bring them to the Light. Thanks for sharing.


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