My youngest and I were walking in front of my favorite store in Macau last week. City Square stocks all manner of home goods, including a small selection of items from IKEA (my happy place). As we approached, I noticed the roll-up door was rolled down. There was a sign taped to it, stating they were closed that day to decorate for Christmas.
Benjamin and I stood hand-in-hand in front of the store window, watching an employee decorate an enormous tree in the window. He turned to wave at us, his smile brilliant, his pride in his work evident. I found myself both grinning and getting choked up as Ben pointed out one amazing detail after another.
It brought me back to my childhood, and the annual trips we would make up the coast of California at Christmastime to San Francisco to shop (but mainly windowshop) the big department stores like Gump's and Macy's, back when there was only one Macy's in the state, and not one in every mall. My family would look at window after window with awe. Of course City Square in Macau is no Macy's in San Francisco, but it was a sweet moment shared with my son in anticipation of the season to come.
The next evening my husband was off work, and I told him of our experience the night before. It was his idea to leave the kids with the sitter and stroll our way to City Square. We looked through all the decorations, from tacky to gorgeous, and picked out a few, and then chose our tree, ordering the same size as the one in the window. It was such fun and everyone in the store was in such a wonderful mood... Exactly how Christmas shopping should be!
Once again I found myself getting choked up, especially when Michael said yes to every single thing I held up, and yes to the big, expensive tree that Ben and I had gazed at with such wonder. We paid and arranged delivery of the tree for the next morning. We walked home, our arms full of merry decor, our hearts filled with joy, our conversation filled with ideas for how we can make Christmas special in this place so far from our loved ones.
The next morning, City Square called to say they couldn't deliver until the afternoon. We had plans for the evening, so we told them the delivery had to take place before 6:00 pm. Michael's phone was on silent, and we missed the mid-day call which was to inform us that they didn't have the 8-foot tree in stock and wouldn't get it until the next day. By the time we got the message and called back to say that was fine, we found they had already dismantled the actual tree from the window and would be at house within the hour.
I was horrified! So much work had gone into that window display! I felt sick knowing we were the cause of it getting ripped apart. My guilt was overwhelming, and I repeated over and over my wish that we'd heard their call.
Michael tried to console me, saying I could just pretend I was a woman who would walk in a store, point to something and say "I want that" and watch as people scrambled to grant my every wish. This only made me feel worse, as I am not now nor have I ever been that type of woman! So instead he suggested I delight in the fact that the tree and I were meant for each other, as it was the genesis of my walk down memory lane and a sweet moment that might live on in my son's memory, certainly my own. I liked that idea so much better.
The tree arrived and we thanked the City Square employees for their incredible service with a generous tip. Then, because it would have been silly not to, we assembled the tree. Michael strung lights, and the four of us stood in awe of this little piece of tradition and familiarity in our corner of this strange and quirky place.
Yes, it's the earliest we've ever put up a tree. And no, we won't actually hang ornaments until December. But in the meantime, its presence is quite comforting.
The very next day we got our first Christmas card in the mail, which my beloved friend Kerrie K had put in the mail two weeks before. I was choked up anew!
Tomorrow we're off to the Philippines for a week, to spend American Thanksgiving with old friends of ours from our time in Hong Kong six years ago. We have so much to be thankful for, especially the fact we are back in this part of the world to be able to spend the holiday with people we love. And of course that we have the opportunity to create new traditions this year which our children may wax nostalgic about when they share them with their own families, years down the road.
Or they can just watch me, a little old lady, sitting in a rocker, getting choked up over a lifetime of amazing memories.