My husband and I recently attended a Christmas party hosted by a lovely couple in their autumn years of life. As the wife showed me around their festive home, she pointed out the various ornaments on the trees they had decorated in each room.
“We made all of these ornaments by hand.” She pointed to the tallest tree in the living room. Each ornament had been wrapped in a lush fabric and adorned with colored beads and shiny ribbons. The effect was regal and folky at the same time, like a Russian ballroom before the revolution.
“My students gave me these,” she smiled. This tree was smaller and shinier, teeming with tinselly holiday fare from the fifties and sixties.
As my hostess showed me everything that twinkled and glowed, I noticed something. None of the trees in the house graced ornaments made by beloved daughters or sons. I suppose I have a nose for this kind of thing, because my tree is absent of such fare, as well. I took a risk.
“Do you have any children?”
“No,” she said rather flatly.
“We haven’t been blessed with children, either.”
She turned around to look at me. “It used to hurt really bad, but then…”
I watched her search for the right words. “But then you realized you have life to live?”
I looked around at her trees filled with memories of students, friends, parents, siblings, and time spent with her husband. Life to live, indeed.