A sweet combined smell of hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies wafted through the living room. Wherever she looked, all she could see were hues of red, green, and silver. From the red-painted walls to the flashing Christmas tree standing in one corner, and shimmering silver tinsel on the window sills.
Elegant wooden picture frames of her family graced the bookshelves and coffee table; one with her husband on their wedding day and several captured moments and portraits of their children. A rare occurrence in what would usually be a lively area filled with happy screams and laughter, all that could be heard was light footsteps from a woman and rustling from the box in her hands.
Maria made her way across the room and laid the box on the floor. She took a small step back and inspected the 6-foot tree from top to bottom. White LED fairy lights have been draped around the tree and flickered in different places every few seconds and a dozen of red and silver bows and candy canes were carefully balanced at the ends of the branches. However, it was still missing the final touches.
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas started playing from the soundbar as Maria bent down and picked out the ornaments one-by-one to hang on the Christmas tree. As always during this time of year, each irreplaceable piece that she touched sparked a precious memory in her mind.
Two white doves. Her and her husband’s (Joe) first Christmas.
Originally glazed white, the doves have discoloured over the years. Maria smiled faintly at the thought of simpler times with lesser bills and stress.
Baby blue bauble which reads ‘Eli 1999’ in white glitter. First Christmas with their eldest son.
Born on Christmas day, Eli proudly took the top spot of being their best Christmas present.
Hanging artificial mistletoe. Decade-old stocking filler from her in-laws.
Millennium Falcon. Eli’s favourite film series.
A pair of rose gold bells with ‘Ella 2006’ engraved. First Christmas with their daughter.
Ella’s arrival completed their family and brought peace to ongoing fights and conflict.
Shamrock green bauble with Dublin’s landmarks. For when they celebrated Christmas abroad.
Velvet teddy bear. Their sleeping baby boy.
Maria brought the little navy blue bear up to her lips and delicately placed a little kiss on the head. She positioned it beside her children’s birth ornaments. He would have been seven years old and gorgeous just like his siblings.
Glass bauble with a gingerbread house inside. Their dream home which they will be moving into in the next few months.
Tattered knitted holly. Ella’s clumsy creation that she crafted when she was in school.
Beaded cross. Family heirloom which was passed down from her great-great-grandmother.
Wooden dog bone with the name ‘Grogu’. For their little furry and yappy Auggie.
Graduation cap. Eli’s latest achievement.
Rainbow. For their Ella.
Several paper candles with a handwritten name. For each loved one who has passed away.
Maria gently lifted the last item from the box. It was protected and covered with bubble wrap which she slowly and attentively unpeeled. She hoped to one day pass it down to one of her kids.
Christmas tree topper: A vintage ivory angel. Her and Joe’s commitment and never-ending love.
Upon recovering from consistent years of financial struggles, her husband splashed out on an upscale angel to brighten their tree. Wanting to give it a personal touch, Maria had decided to have it amended and use her engagement ring for the angel’s halo as an emblem of them building their life together.
The front door creaked open and the cheerful voices of Maria’s family echoed through the house. She listened to their surprised gasps from the festive decorations and waited excitedly by the tree. She’d be looking forward to this moment all day.
Maria wasn’t disappointed as she watched their faces light up as they entered the room.
Without a doubt, Christmas is still her favourite time of year.
You can read the prequel through this link: Advent Calendar.
Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you have a lovely day and celebration wherever you are, surrounded by loved ones and delicious turkey and eggnog. May you continue to stay safe and healthy 💕