COLUMN: Life is a journey

Some people scrapbook. I Christmas tree. From the first Christmas after I was married right up until this holiday 40 years later I add new ornaments each season to my collection.

By Rebecca Johnston


Rebecca Johnston (web)Nowadays I try to pick ornaments that represent what has happened in the past year. In the early days my choices were simpler.

My first Yuletide season as a newlywed, my mother and I went to Helen and visited a Christmas shop where she helped me choose some decorations for my inaugural fir in my own home. I picked out some gold plastic snowflakes and some orange-red balls with sparkly bric-a-brac decorating them.

I still have both and still hang them on my tree each year, evoking memories not just of my early days as a wife, but also of my mother and her guidance in all things decorative.
She had simple tastes and extremely strong opinions that I still hear in my ear today, my decorating conscience, that little voice that tells me I will be sorry with my choice if I am not careful.

She never liked blue at the holidays and it took me years to venture out and buy some blue baubles.

Christmas trees, like life, evolve. Home is where the heart is, and that is never truer than during the holidays.

For 50 years, with few exceptions, I celebrated Christmas at my parents’ home each holiday, the home in Canton where they lived when I came along and where I grew up.

One of those exceptions was the Christmas our son was born on Dec. 19. We didn’t get to come home from the hospital until Christmas Eve after a rather tough time for both of us.

My parents, siblings, in-laws and it seemed just about everyone I knew were on hand to welcome us to our own home with Christmas presents, decorations and a plethora of poinsettias.

I don’t remember doing that much decorating that year. Our son made an early appearance and we were just glad to get him home and into his crib where we could love him and hold him.

I don’t remember the food or the presents or any of the trappings of Christmas, just the joy of the birth of our first born.

I still have the ornaments that my mother gave me that first year I was a mother, however, one an old-fashioned clothes pin painted to look like a young boy, a sort of Raggedy Andy.

Another a silver nutcracker. They remind me of that long-ago time each year when I unpack them.

I have hand-painted sand dollars for each of my children made the year my daughter was born by neighbor Sara Jo Cauble. And a cross-stitch Christmas tree in a little frame with Ann and the date of her first Christmas made by dear friend Judy Bishop.

I have the ornaments that each year I exchange with friends, including those given me by Cissy Jones Ellington and Jeannie Lathem Adams, my childhood friends who have found the greatest gift of Christmas in ever-lasting life after battles with cancer.

I have ornaments from other best friends: Helen Spears, Wanda Roach and Elly Hobgood among others that mark each holiday with new memories together.

The collection of White House ornaments given to me by Peggy Buchanan and continued by her husband Wade and daughter Christi Hinkley.

Many ornaments that hang on the tree each year represent our travels, our vacations with family and friends.

And now I have ornaments to represent the next generation, my grandson Phoenix, my son’s new family and other exciting changes the last few years have brought to our lives.

I cherish the ornaments my children give me. I have one I know my son picked out when he was young at Chamberhouse, and I especially love that one. My daughter has given me many, each one special.

My husband helps me unpack and later pack up the boxes and boxes that have accumulated over the years. And while he may sometimes grumble, I know that he like I do cherishes each memory.

As the years fly by, each one is sweeter, dearer. The limitless supply of my youth now seems much more finite.

I love each step on the journey that is mapped by the ornaments on my tree and made more precious by the true meaning of Christmas.

I hope you find new ideas to celebrate this special time of year in the pages of this issue of Cherokee Life. We wish each of you a happy holiday.


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