Love Make Share is the story of the connections we make as we create together. One of the things we create every year is a festive mood in the house. This goes back to our first Christmas we first trimmed a tree together, nearly seven years ago, with the girls barely 3 and 4 years old at that time. The tree, whether artificial, bought from a local lot, cut down at the family farm up in the valley, has always been the jumping-off point for our festivities. Every year we’ve trimmed it together with Christmas music and hot chocolate, with NJ coordinating the Christmas cheer.
For whatever reason, I’ve never had ornaments on our Christmas tree. I’ve made ornaments for the kids, gifted them, and helped hang NJ’s ornaments, but I’ve never had my own. My childhood Christmas ornaments have stayed in my childhood home and adorned my parents’ tree. And so both trimming my own tree and trimming my parents’ tree always felt a little off somehow. Like I was still not quite there in either place.
Isn’t that crazy? Feeling listless next to your own tree in your own house with your wife and kids and pets hanging out and being toasty by a fire in your fireplace while drinking a mocha or coffee or hot chocolate that you made. The feeling of being a bit player in your own show.
That Christmas situation changed, bizarrely, in July. We were spending time in Algonquin Provincial Park, a place very important to my family and my family’s history. One day (a day that called for rain) we decided to leave the Park and run out highway 60 to Huntsville. We could do some shopping, grab some lunch, and stay dry.
I like Huntsville. It’s cute in the way that larger towns can be, with plenty of rural charm and lots of local artists and independent businesses and pretty good food. There’s also an old bridge across the river in the middle of town, which I appreciate.
We shopped in the sun and then dodged raindrops all the way to lunch, then dodged them some more into a shop I never would have gone into myself – a year-round Christmas store.
As you might have guessed from the intro to this piece, Christmas and I have developed something of a fraught relationship. There’s the whole participant-observer thing. But with Christmas hot on the heels of both Halloween and National Novel Writing Month, it also often feels like a sort of inconveniently-timed chore at the end of a long, busy autumn. Those long, busy autumns themselves comes off long, busy summers at work. So going into a Christmas store in July, during a vacation week when I was already trying and failing not to stress about the work I was going back to, was not top of mind for me.
But NJ and the kids wanted to check it out, so in we went to Christmas Tyme, and I found myself totally charmed despite myself. Specifically, there was a series of ornaments that looked like little toasted marshmallow snowmen. I looked at them. I looked around and looked at them again.
A lot of the time, if I see something that I can probably make myself, I really don’t think about buying it. I might take a few photos to come back to later, but usually I wouldn’t put down the twelve bucks. But NJ intervened. “If you like it, get it so that you have one to put on the tree,” she said. And then the kids found a s’mores snowman with a cup of coffee, and that was the end of the discussion. Still reluctantly, still resenting Christmas in advance and still thinking I could just make one myself if I really wanted one, I paid the twelve bucks for my marshmallow snowman.
When we got home, we put it away with the other Christmas ornaments, and I completely forgot it existed.
This year, like every year, as we brought the bins (and bins and bins) of Christmas stuff up from the basement, that familiar malaise started to set in again. But this year, unlike other years, when we started unpacking the Christmas ornaments, the listlessness deflated. Because this year, in the box, in with the ornaments the kids made, with the special ornaments NJ has collected, and the store-bought balls we got to colour-coordinate the tree, there was one of mine. Just one. But there he was, looking toasty and warm, with his own cup of coffee and a big smile on his face.
And so we trimmed the tree. Me and NJ and the girls. The pets stayed close, keeping an eye on the proceedings. We had cocoa and mochas and coffee. A cheery fire was lit and we cuddled up to it, toasty and warm. And our tree this year is maybe more beautiful than it’s ever been.
The marshmallow snowman, toasty and happy with his cup of coffee, is sitting comfortably on my tree this year. He’ll sit there next year, and for as many years as he lasts. He was the missing piece – one I never really knew I didn’t have.
That piece isn’t missing any more. And I know – even though this post sets up the marshmallow snowman as the Christmas ornament that saved Christmas – that it wasn’t really about him. He wasn’t the one who pulled me into Christmas Tyme to dodge raindrops. He wasn’t the one who convinced me to buy something I otherwise wouldn’t have. He wasn’t the one that found a Christmas ornament that spoke to me in ways I wouldn’t realize until I hung him on the tree. No, that was my wife and my daughters, finding joy in a novelty shop in Huntsville on a stormy summer day.
So thank you, marshmallow snowman. Thank you for being a reminder of how my wonderful family has rekindled my Christmas spirit and, perhaps without even realizing it, made our family Christmas not just something I participate in, but something that I’m a part of too.
As always, folks, paddle your own canoe – and merry Christmas, happy holidays, and all the best for the new year!