2004 was one of the worst years of my life. It was a year of rebuilding. Rebuilding our marriage, rebuilding our finances, rebuilding our lives. There was joy that year as we celebrated the marriage of our youngest child but even that was overshadowed by having to move in with my mother just a couple of weeks prior. Most of our belongings were moved into our son's garage as we took on the project of rebuilding a battered double-wide to make it habitable. Neither of us had any experience with home repair, before this if we needed something done I found a contractor or handyman that could do it. We learned, family pitched in and we worked, often putting in 12 hour days. The house was no where near done but it was fit to move into just before the start of the school year and I went back to the job I'd left just two short years before and not all of my coworkers were welcoming. Work was unpleasant daily and I came home to an unending list of things that still needed to be done.
Something changed for me at Thanksgiving. I can't put my finger on just what it was but the gray haze of depression started to lift and I was determined to have a great Christmas. I got out our little "Charlie Brown" tree and found that it was too big to put any place unless we moved some large piece of furniture out and there simply was no place to move anything to. I was not to be deterred. I put the tree on top of the buffet. To decorate it I had to get out the step ladder and I spent a good deal of time standing on the buffet. It really looked a bit ridiculous perched up there but it made me smile and there was the added bonus that with two two year olds visiting my ornaments were safe from harm. I got out every Christmas decoration I had and every surface was decorated. I baked cookies, cookies and more cookies.
Christmas Eve came and we somehow managed to find room for 13 adults and 4 kids. It was loud, too warm, crazy and utterly fantastic. We had a spiral ham, so the kids filled up on cookies. The kids got to open their presents all in a rush and I missed half of what was opened. We played a riotous game of steal bingo. It will always be one of my most memorable Christmases. But it resides only in my memory, not a single picture was taken that year. I'd never been in the habit of taking pictures of our decorations and I never thought to do it. I'm the family photogapher but things were so crazy on Christmas Eve that I never got around to taking pictures. So these words are the only picture I'll ever have. I've tried in the years since to do better making sure that pictures get taken and my girls sometimes remember to take them for me but how I wish someone had taken a picture or two that year.
If you squint and concentrate really hard maybe you can picture the tree perched up there where the humidifier is. With the star on top it would almost reach the ceiling.
Our marriage and finances are once again on firm footings. There are still things I'd like to do to the house but I'm very proud of what we have accomplished. I recieved my Christmas gift early this year - new siding and windows! It you'd like to take a peek at some of what we've done you can look here.