Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Decorating: My Own Personal 12 Step Program

I’m going to admit something to you that is rather shocking.

I do not, nor have I ever since entering Widowdom, felt guilty about decorating for the holidays.

I know.  Pick yourself up off of the floor.

Since the first holiday my husband was gone...I haven’t minded decorating on my own.  Oh sure...I miss the memories of putting the tree up together and making sure it’s not at a 45 degree angle.  Getting out the ornaments that we bought when we were young and had no money.  Fearfully watching my husband skate across an icy roof to put up twinkle lights (why in the hell do we do that???  It seems so important at the time, but do you ever just think about how silly and freaking dangerous that is???).

Good times.

But as far as actually picking out the decorations and getting the house ready...I’m okay with doing it on my own.

Now, this is something that I haven’t said to anyone.  I thought that if I ever admitted might get me kicked out of the club.  Like I wouldn’t be considered a real widow if I admitted that I liked decorating for Christmas on my own. I feel like in the last 4 years I’ve been in my own “12 Step Program For Decorating Unguiltiness.” 

This is step 10...admitting to my friends and family that I don’t have a problem.

My husband and I never agreed on holiday decorating.  I didn’t realize how bad it was until after we got married.  I stupidly assumed that I was marrying a man, much like my own father, who could give a shit about what lights I had on the tree or what wreath I chose for the outside.  I had no idea that the first Christmas we were married would be a true test of our relationship. 

We actually did without some key decorations because we couldn’t agree on them.

Like ornaments.

In retrospect, I can understand that those fights were stupid.  Arguing about whether or not you should have an angel on the top of the tree or a the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean too much.

But back in the first year of marriage, it seemed like if I gave in and let him have that star...well...there would be no end to the things he would take advantage of! 

Oh c’mon.  You have to stand your ground early.  And what better time to do that than the holidays?


The first year he was gone, I will admit...I didn’t mind decorating the house myself.  Yes, I TOTALLY missed him sitting on the couch and sleeping while the kids and I decorated the tree.  But for the first time...I could finally have the lights I had always wanted.  I could decorate the mantel like something out of Country Living...instead of implementing the dream decoration he had seen in Sports Illustrated that inspired a whole Steelers/Baby Jesus theme.  I could listen to the old 1950s classic Christmas carols...instead of “White Snake Wishes You A Merry D%$* Christmas.”

Okay...before you go clicking on Amazon...they never made that album.  But you get my drift.

In all seriousness...did I miss my husband?  YES. I have missed him every holiday, every birthday, and everyday that ends in “day” since he’s been gone.  But the truth is...this desire to create my own Christmas...actually wasn’t such a bad thing.  I have so many things around that are still ours.  They’re just rearranged in a way that I like.  They will always be ours...that’s the miracle of a $1 decoration from 12 years ago.   But I’ve changed them...just a that the way my house’s me...with him mixed in for magic.

Every ornament has a memory...and they’re right in there with the new ones.  There are old cookie tins in a new place that remind me of his favorite sweets.  There are his old decorations on the mantel...with some new ones thrown in that are all me.

I even have a star at the top of the tree.  Instead of an angel.  

You win, sweetie.

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© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. I understand completely... Chuck really wasnt into decorations, But, being a perfectionist.. he always had to turn the ornimnts just so, and the lights HAD to be even... you get the picture..
    so this year, I am only decorating the store and not my house and it is my choice and the lights are NOT even! have a happy one

  2. I was doing fine with this post until the last line. Which is also when I remembered that I put (those garish) colored lights on the tree last year instead of the (tasteful) white ones I have always preferred.xo Carolyn

  3. Loved your story!Made me laugh, made me cry because I could see some of my life in your words. I always got to make the Christmas decisions, I guess I stood my ground My husband passed away the end of September and this Christmas my teenage son and I will attempt to drag the tree in and put it up straight which was his fathers job. This past summer I had seen a singing 2ft christmas tree at a yard sale. I had no money with me and he wouldn't give me the five dollars for it because he said I didn't need it,we had to much he said! It ruined our whole day because I was mad about that (stupid looking back) the next day I got home from work and it was in my livingroom, he felt bad and went back the next day to get it. It was my favorite holiday so I know he would want me to decorate this year even though it will be full of memories to make me sad. Thanks for sharing your, and Merry Christmas.

  4. Catherine,
    You hit the nail on the head! There are so many times when I feel guilty because I am doing fine with "decorating" or "planning a holiday" or just rearranging our bedroom.
    We argued about everything LOL. It always amazed me that we were even together for 28 years. And I catch myself doing little things that I would have fought against before he died.
    Although I miss him every day and every minute, I am OK with doing things alone. I move on because I want to celebrate his life not mourn his death.
    And I will still put out that Raiders Christmas Tree in the den even though it does not go with anything!

  5. I took out my Christmas decorations two days ago and decorated the house. I put up a tree and put all the ornaments on. I cried a couple times. Mainly when I put up ornaments that had meanings... and things we had shared together (like our stockings). I was actually surprised how put together I was about it. It's only been 7 months and I kept my composure about it all. I don't know how... but I did. The house has a real big homey feel now. But I still feel like it's missing the biggest part... which is John. I had told myself months ago I wanted to skip Christmas but really there is no way around it. It's coming.