Our Christmas Memory Tree

December 21, 2013

Dear Will,

Christmas is almost here and though I am trying to focus on the good things that will be part of our Christmas this year, memories of you and our Christmases past are the only things that occupy my mind.  I go through the motions but just past my eyelids are tears that I have been trying so hard to suppress.  This morning is different.  It is quiet in the house; I’m the only one up, I’ve made myself a cup of tea, turned on the lights on the Christmas tree and now I can let my tears fall.   I sit here wanting only to spend some time with you.

Will's Santa Hat

Your Santa Hat

As daylight is beginning to show its face, I stare at our tree and all the memories of you that adorn it.  Since your angel date our Christmas tree has become a Memory Tree.  Instead of the angel that we used to put on top, we have placed your Santa hat.  I smiled while putting it up there looking at the way you printed your name with a sharpie on the inside when you were in kindergarten.  The bigger the space, the bigger you printed.  Your name is really just a bunch of sticks and being the third child we chose a name that, of course, we loved and was meaningful, but at the same time was going to be easy for you to print when you were little and beginning school.  Will (not William) was perfect for so many reasons!

There are tiny white twinkly lights from top to bottom and on each branch is a Fernie family ski pass; all five of us from all the years we were Fernie pass holders.  You and your brothers have been Fernie pass holders all of your lives and as I look at the photos on each pass I remember so many fun times.  The photos on these (expensive) little pieces of plastic are a chronological record of how each of you have grown and changed from year to year; from tots to big boys and Justin and Ben, now young men.  There is one of you that is all bent and I smile remembering it was the one that you didn’t remove from your ski pants before throwing them in the dryer (one of those wet snow days!) and it had begun to melt from the high heat.  When I look closely, Will, I notice you weren’t the only one that forgot…

For the last two Christmases I have added three ornaments each year to signify you and your brothers.  The first year I found three white sparkly stars.  I wrote your names on each of the stars and hung them in the same order as your star on Orion’s belt in the Orion Constellation.  Sandy and Don Bietz (your kindergarten teacher and her husband) dedicated this star to you after your angel date so it made perfect sense that I put three stars on our tree.

My Three Stars

My Three Stars
You, Justin, and Ben

You are in the middle and Justin and Ben are on each side protecting you.  I have to tell you (and I’m pretty sure you’ll find this funnier than I did !*?#) that when I came home from work a couple of weeks ago, the three stars were on the ground.  The string of tree lights was askew and had been pulled across the carpet.  The cord was chewed through and a couple of the bulbs were missing (we have new lights now).  Finn!  I panicked while Finn skulked out of the living room with his head down low and his tail between his legs.  Little bugger… he knew he’d done wrong.  What I was worried about most were the three stars.  When I picked them up both of your brother’s stars were chewed on the ends but yours was perfect.  They are all back on the tree in the order I’d originally put them.  Perhaps next Christmas I’ll smile remembering that story but it’s a very small smile now.  Last year I hung three snowflakes and this year three glittery peace signs.

Your hand-sewn Gingerbread Boy

Your hand-sewn Gingerbread Boy

Here and there I hung the Christmas ornaments that you made in school and up high (where Finn could not possibly reach or see) I placed amongst the branches the brown felt gingerbread boy that you had hand-sewn and stuffed when you were in grade 2.   All are Priceless handmade memories that I value more than anything.

Nana and Pa will come and spend Christmas with us this year and that will be special.  That makes me smile but I wish more than anything that you were here, too; that you’d be with us in your pajamas on Christmas morning.  Like the last two Christmases, Willy, under the tree will be the last gift that we unwrap — a new jigsaw puzzle from you to us.  A gift that will give us hours and hours of family time while we remember you and how much we miss you and love you.

Happy Heavenly Christmas to you up there, Will.  I know you’ll be looking down on us and that in many ways you’ll be with us on this favorite holiday of yours.

Missing you so much… and love you like a bus.


Stuck in the Snow With Nowhere To Go


Monday, December 2, 2013

Hey Will,

Well, true to the weatherman’s forecast last night I woke this morning to a blustery, heavy snowfall… what he’d referred to as an imminent blizzard and what you’d refer to as “one of the best days ever!”  I am grateful that I don’t work Mondays and that I didn’t have to get out of bed to an alarm this morning and make my way to school.  I lay in my bed for a while with the warm, feathery duvet tucked in all around me wondering if this is what it would feel like to be floating on a cloud?  Outside, the snow swirled in the intermittent wind, big flakes interrupted from their usual flight pattern and what we normally see here in Redwood.  Because we are nestled amongst the trees we usually see the snowflakes fall like on a Christmas card, but NOT today.  For a few minutes I thought about how horrible the road conditions must be, how terrible the visibility would be on the highways, how the wind would bite my cheeks when I would eventually have to go outside to shovel the driveway… and then in the next breath I thought about what you’d be thinking if you were here.  How you’d jump out of bed on this scheduled day off of school (probably before the alarm on a school day).  How you’d be planning how quickly you could get dressed, eat breakfast and find a friend or two to come over and start the process of building a ski jump and mini rail park in the backyard.  I chuckled to myself, thinking how brilliant Dad and I would have been in winters past to have encouraged you and your brothers to build your winter playground in the front yard (instead of the backyard) adjacent to the driveway…. how you guys would have shoveled the driveway so you’d have more snow to build with (without even thinking of it as shoveling the driveway which would have been a win/win for all of us).  You wouldn’t feel the wind, or the biting cold but instead would be vibrating with excitement thinking only about being outside in the snow.  Hours would pass before you’d burst through the back door shedding all of your outside winter clothing (boots and all) into a big heap hoping that I’d already thought about plugging in the kettle to make hot chocolate.  I smile now remembering how rosy your cheeks would be, how your hair would look like it was home to a pack of mice after you removed your toque, how you’d say your hands and feet were frozen but not complain.  I know I’d be shaking my head, wondering how kids just don’t feel the cold like grown-ups.  And then, here it comes, Will… the words that would roll off my tongue, “Will, please hang up your coat, put your mitts on the heat register.  Your toque won’t dry laying under your boots (oh, there’d probably be more) and then you can have a cup of hot chocolate.”  Because you’d really only come inside for a cup of hot chocolate and a chance to warm up your fingers and toes you’d comply without me having to ask you again to clean up the “heap” at the back door.  As soon as your belly was warm, and your fingers and toes too, out you’d go and the process would begin again.  Outside, inside, outside, inside…

Tonight when I’d tuck you into your bed, you’d be hoping and praying for the heavy snowfall to continue.  The icing on the cake would be a phone call from Rockyview Schools early tomorrow morning saying that school was cancelled due to the weather so you could repeat today; a true blue snow day and no school was the very best kind.

So instead of thinking of today as a terrible winter blizzard, I am going to think of it as you’d have.  I’ve nowhere that I have to be today, so I’m happy to be “stuck here” at home.  Each time I look out the window, Will, I will imagine you out there in all your glory… loving every minute of the heavy snowfall and all the winter playground possibilities that it would bring.   This afternoon, I’ll plug in the kettle and make some hot chocolate; I’ll make two cups, Will… one for you with extra marshmallows and one for me.  I’ll give yours to Dad since he’s working from home today and we’ll smile through our tears wishing you were here.

Missing you so much today.  Love you like a yellow school bus stuck in the snow with nowhere to go.