While driving my daughters home from school the other day, one of my daughters asked, “Mama, can we put all of the ornaments that Jordan made in a box and then have one special section of the tree that’s just for his ornaments?”
Luckily I was at a red light because tears sprang to my eyes as I said, “I think that’s a beautiful idea.”
Both girls asked at the same time, “Why are you crying?”
“Because I’m imagining our tree and I like your idea so much. It’s beautiful. I’m crying too because I miss Jordan.”
One daughter handed me a tissue, as the other rubbed my back.
“It’s okay, Mama.”
“I know. Thank you”
We’ve yet to get our Christmas tree. Before Jordan died we went as a family to pick out a tree. Everyone weighed in before we would make our final decision on our perfect tree. Jordan always liked the fuller trees with the feathery leaves. Mark wanted the tallest tree our house could hold. Merrick, the girls and I liked the trees with the firmer branches that were taller and not as wide. Every year after we’d picked a tree I would race back to the car, fleeing the cold. I’d sit and watch Mark with the kids trailing behind him or swirling around him.
The family ritual of all of us piling into the car and heading to the same lot every year to choose a tree has changed. Since Jordan died, just Mark and I go to pick out a tree. Our first Christmas, Mark and I went to a tree lot we had never been to before and picked up our Christmas tree on the way home from the grocery store. It wasn’t a decision we discussed, but as we turned onto Chicago Avenue I looked at Mark and said, “Let’s just get the tree here.” He made a quick right turn and parked. We hadn’t talked to the kids about changing our ritual but neither one of us could bear to go as a family to pick out a tree without Jordan.
Our first Christmas tree without Jordan was decorated only with lights. None of us could bear our usual tradition of gathering around the tree, adding ornaments while Mark played Christmas carol DJ, responding to the shouted out requests, “Play Rudolph,” “No, it my turn, Jackson 5, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.” Invariably Jordan would sneak over and switch the music to, “This Christmas,” by Donny Hathaway and his siblings would shout out together, “Jordan!”
Last year Merrick suggested a new Christmas ritual. “How about if we put an ornament on the tree whenever we feel like it instead of doing it together. We can just do it when we’re walking by the tree if we feel like it. Let’s not make a big deal out of it.” We all agreed and over several days our tree was slowly filled with ornaments. There was even a moment when I went into the living room
After listening to Lindsay’s suggestions for our tree this year, I thought of other “ornaments,” that can adorn our tree. Jordan’s key ring, which still holds his house keys, will be hung from a branch. A set of ear buds will be on the tree too representing the way Jordan carried music with him all the time. And an ornament will be made out of a picture of Jordan wearing one of his favorite hoodies, the way we remember him best. All of these ornaments will be in a box near the tree. Each of us in our own time and communion with Jordan will add them to the tree keeping him close and a part of our Christmas.