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I don’t decorate my Christmas tree the same way each year, and this year my thought was to go minimalist. It’s kind of a minimalist year. My Seattle family is off to Virginia on the Sunday night red eye. My local sister works her make-it-or-break-it-at-Christmas retail business until well into the evening everyday in December right up to Christmas Eve. My Virginia sister and family aren’t arriving until Christmas night.

And my mom is gone.

Maybe just lights, I thought. But, as is my born-in-childhood custom, my tree is not a perfect full-figured cone affair, manicured well beyond its natural shape on a farm; and there was a good-sized hole that lights could not fill. Kind of like the hole the absence of my parents—newly enlarged by my mother’s death in April—has left in my heart.

“Hang your stocking there,” my daughter said. Good idea! And so I dragged out the box of decorations after all. Turns out there were more holes, and I hung three stockings for three daughters, for Three of Earth.

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Of course, I also had to set up my snow person crèche with its many visitors to the manger. Because it’s my favorite thing. You know that question, “what would you hate to lose in a fire?” designed to help you get at what physical things are really important to you? My list is extremely short, but my snow person crèche is on it. The guest circle expanded when I moved back into my childhood home and now includes Playskool Bus wise people, hand-painted ceramic angels, cricket musicians, and “dish garden” flamingos. Other childhood favorites have been schlepped from home to home for many years: the broken plastic reindeer, the polka dotted cat on wheels, the skating snow people candles, a chipped snow globe.

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Once the box of decorations was out I decided to add “just a few” ornaments. Dragging out another box—and fishing through my mother’s boxes—my Christmas tree is all angels, birds, flying reindeer, and stars. In honor of my mother, wherever you are. May you soar.

May you each experience joyous celebration of loved ones who walk the earth with you, and may peace and thanksgiving fill the hole left by those who have departed.

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