Why I Place a Christmas Wreath on My Parents’ Grave Every Year
Since 2007, I’ve been placing a Christmas wreath on my parents’ grave. It doesn’t get any easier. As I secure the wreath to the grave, a swell of nostalgia encompasses me. I close my eyes and take in the familiar aroma of pine and memories of childhood come flooding back.
Mom and Dad always made sure Christmas was a special family time. Preparations began two weeks before. Tradition was important. I was raised in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan with my brother, Bill, and my sister, Jane. Each December, in the center of our neighborhood, a set of beautifully decorated trees were set up. This is where we went to see Santa Claus.
My parents took great care to decorate our windows. One year, Dad used glass wax and cotton balls to simulate a snow scene on the glass. But the tree was the highlight. Dad would walk the streets looking for the perfect one. He’d carry it home, set it in its stand and let it fall into place. He’d decorate it with blue lights and old-fashioned balls. Each one was strategically placed. The biggest deal was the tinsel. No one could do it but Dad. He hung one piece at a time, and if you tried to help, it would be taken back down and rehung.
It was inevitable that I would grow up to cherish Christmas the way I do. My parents didn’t have much, but they made sure we celebrated the holiday in a big way. To this day, my husband, Jim, and I do the same for our children and grandson. In later years, I took over hosting. Mom and Dad came to all the Christmas pageants my children were in and visited for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
After a series of strokes and a dementia diagnosis, Mom had to go into a nursing home. My father later joined her after breaking his hip. That year, I purchased a small Christmas tree; they kept it in their room until Dad passed away. He was told it was against the rules to leave the tree lit, so he’d wait until the head nurse went off duty to put the lights on, and set his alarm for the morning so he could turn it off before she returned. That explained why he was so tired during the Christmas season.
It’s funny how the familiar scent of a pine wreath could bring back so many years of fond memories. When I leave their grave, I turn around and look at the wreath and thank God I had Mom and Dad to create the traditions I continue today. I miss them terribly. But I know they’re together and happy that the legacy they began continues on.
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