The little ceramic tree

mom’s tree in the window of her assisted-living apartment

I don’t know how long ago my mother in law (now 91) and I got talking about how much I liked her little green ceramic Christmas tree that lit up. It reminded me of the ceramic trees my dad had and that his mother (my nana) had. I always loved those trees. 

When I think of them I think of so many christmas’s in the deep past of my life.  My Nana had the ceramic tree but it was white and she placed in one of her condo front windows and I also recall she  had the little Swedish angel carousel that would spin around and around when you lit the candles under them. I loved when she had them out over the holidays and she would light them for me. We’d turn out the lights and light the candles. I can still feel the warmth and the tinkling sound of the bells. 

angel tree like my nanas. photo cred: angelcimes.com


My dad’s ceramic tree came to him well after he married my stepmother Jean. It too was white and would sit in our living room on a table -(the living room was the forbidden room unless we had company). I’d admire it from afar. 

Then it followed them to a new home and I was allowed to admire it close up BC by then I was an adult and a guest in the house by then too so I was allowed in the living room. It may have followed my dad to Florida after my stepmother died – and perhaps it will surface as my brother goes through some of my dads items. Maybe my nanas is there too. I can’t remember where that tree went after she died. Perhaps the one my dad had was hers.  That’s a thought that just came to me. This is where the memories blur for me. 

As a young adult years ago -before my marriage – I got to thinking about those trees and I really wanted one of my own.  I did ask my dad if he used his and he said he did.  It was his only tree as he had given up tree decorating some years prior when he sent me a huge box of Christmas decorations from my childhood. I still have many but they are beat  up. 

I couldn’t find a ceramic tree anywhere. They must have gone out of style. I may have even looked on eBay for them a time or two over the years but I never bit the bullet and got one. I’m not sure why. Maybe cost. Maybe I never found one there. Again memory blur. 

But sometime over the last 18 years that I’ve been part of the Sweeney family Christmas I must have begun the dialogue about my love of my mother in laws( mom sweeney)  little green ceramic tree. I would tell mom Sweeney about my family memories with the ceramic trees. One year a while back she mentioned to me that she was going to leave me that tree. I just laughed uncomfortably because to think I’d lose her wasn’t anything I could consider. She’s been such a friend to me – it’s hard to think of her not being here. 

Last Christmas Eve my Father in law died. How we all got through Christmas is beyond me. Not long after that mom sweeney began to get rid of things in her house. And when I say rid I don’t mean that in a bad sense. She carefully chose recipients of her most important items and she began giving them away to each of us. I wrote back last spring that she gave me my father in laws camera. A beautiful old Zeis. It meant so much to me that she would gift me that. It’s a beautiful piece and she knows what photography means to me. 

I think on that same day she also wanted me to take her little green  ceramic Christmas tree.   She said she wouldn’t be around to use it next Christmas – I declined. I wasn’t ready to take that yet. But eventually not long after that things were going at a fast pace out of the house – now some was even going to goodwill.  So my husband and I were over to her home for a visit and I asked her if I could take it but my taking came with a condition proposed by me ” if you are alive next Christmas I am bringing you the tree back.”  

She agreed but I think she was sure she’d be gone by her next Christmas. Then spring became summer and she moved to assisted living. She didn’t think she’d be in there very long- and it’s been a hard transition. And as this holiday has loomed she’s been feeling worse physically -and mentally she’s sad. She misses her husband of almost 70 years. She’s not living in the place she had Christmas for well over 50 years – her home not far down the road from her assisted living. A house mostly empty now and set to go on the market in January. She’s lonely. 

So one day a couple weeks ago Kevin and I made a surprise visit to see Mom Sweeney and we brought her that little tree and placed it on her window ledge.  

“You are still here ” I said. ” I told you I’d bring it back. ” 

She smiled. Her voice is so soft now we can’t always here her. She reminded me that it was my tree now.  I’ll take stewardship of it but it will always be hers. 

I told her , “If you are still here next Christmas I’m bringing it back.” 

We smiled at eachother.

That’s a promise I intend to keep. Oh how I love that lady. 

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