Bin There. Done That.

The holiday season is approaching, and unless you live totally off the grid in Upper Lower Vacantville, you know that plans are afoot. People are walking the "I have a purpose" walk, carrying lists, checking them twice, looking slightly distracted, and not sure whether  they're actually enjoying themselves but finding that, more often than not, they are.

Christmas is nigh, near a store near you, and no matter what your Faith, you know that if ever there was a time to be nice to one another, this is most likely it. And so you smile at strangers, hold doors open for parcel laden people, and stand patiently in line behind the lady at the ATM who is updating her account book for the first time in a decade..and you smile at her too. The hype, the syrupy music, the moments brought to you by Hallmark, the Griswolds, and the Grinches have become a winter rite of passage that few in the western world can avoid.

I, for one, don't wish to. Because over the years, Christmas has become the one time of the year that I can unabashedly wear my heart on my sleeve. Be sentimental, openly thankful for all that is good in my life, and give to others less, or more, fortunate simply because I want to. I know that I could do this any day of the year, but having Christmas ensures that it happens at least once.

And then there's the boxes in the basement. Every year I swear to edit and delete the growing Bin Nation in the storage room. But I don't. Because each time I open a bin a memory flies out, captures my heart, and suddenly transports me to a moment I hadn't thought about in years.

The years of Christmas past are held in those bins. The year I fell in love with wire ribbon. Apple year. Pink year. Berry year. And every year's a bird year. And it is all there in the bins.
This year, the pieces that are drawing me in are red. So that's the starting point.

First up is to put Frosty on the porch.
I love him because he was my smoking buddy for several years, when I still smoked. We've had many long discussions about this or that, and he is forever cheerful, no matter what I  tell him. He was very happy when I quit smoking, but I  don't see him as often as I used to, as I don't have to hang about on the porch in -40 weather, puffing away. But it is a Christmas essential that he be there in the porch, greeting me, and friends with a welcome smile.

Then there's the old ornaments that I inherited from my parents.
Fragile glass that over the years has not withstood the test of time. The few that remain are treasures. Bussie's Bell, a blue little bell given to my Mom by her bridge club in the 1950's. Not all that special really, except that she loved it, held it, and treated it with care. And now I do so for her.

There's the china angel given to me by Clare and Peggy Ross, long gone friends of my parents. The  little cupie doll faced angel says "Obey Your Mother and Father" and I always felt like I was being admonished.
It's like Peggy knew I wasn't all that obedient a child, and thought I should be reminded. It made me feel guilty,  but I have cherished it since the day I received it when I was  7 years old. It broke once, and now there's a glue stain where I fixed it. Oddly, I like it more now that it's less perfect!

Other ornaments are more whimsical. The Three Blind Mice
 are just plain cute and the birds? Well,  they're here year round, and this Christmas, they get  the red berry treatment.

As I unpack the bins, a process of elimination begins...what to take out, what to leave in. It becomes a mood indicator, a barometer measuring how the past year has gone. Some years, barely anything has made it out of the bins. Big, bold, in a hurry, don't think a lot, just do, years. Other years, it's a far more thoughtful, subtle unpacking. Finding little gifts from friends who have slipped beyond, and wanting to put them in places where I can see them, and remember their smiles.

This year is more like that. A good year, so there will be lots of red, to celebrate my family, my kids, their successes. And a quiet year, to remember good friends gone, but not forgotten.
Another trip around the sun. Another reason to unpack the bins that are filled with love.