Growing up I never really had many traditions, family traditions that is. Sure, we visited my grandmas, one divorced, one widowed. I saw my grandfather a few days after. Gifts were exchanged. My mom, my sister and I always went to church, either midnight mass or on Xmas day, sometimes both. My dad never went with us, he’s not a religious person.
Now that I’m all grown up, and live on my own, I find myself yearning to establish something, something other than going to church and visiting the family. Something that I feel proud of starting.
When hon and I purchased our very first Christmas tree together, we bought decorations, and I added a few of my own which my mom had sent on my first year in grad school. I remember being so thrilled about receiving that box. It had lights, a nativity set and and a little plastic angel which I always hang by the entrance of the apartment. It’s a bit kitschy, but I like it. I also started to get ornaments, handmade ornaments for the tree. We bought the little tree in Canada, and it’s now in NYC with me, thought it is currently in storage. That first year I bought two or three handmade decorations, a little nativity one I purchased at Ten Thousand Villages, and some stars I purchased at the place where hon got his incense from. They’re little wooden stars, golden little stars. I also got a vintage tree topper which I adore, and again, is hidden somewhere in one of our storage boxes.
Then last year I didn’t get an ornament. Last year I was pissed. I wasn’t home with my mom, sister, nephew and honey. Thankfully I had more than a few caring souls around, who sent cards (thanks tweeps!), gift cards (thanks M! and my in-laws) and even brought gifts to the lab (mmm, chocolate). Last year I felt very lonely. I didn’t venture into the city for days. I was in my own little foul mood. I didn’t get an ornament … but one of my users did.
My users are awesome (with one or two clear exceptions, people who break off parts of instruments and then act as if nothing had happened …. grrrr). I got tons of delicious chocolate, an ornament, thank you notes. All in the span of the 5-6 months I’d been at work at the time. My PhD boss used to call each of her students into her office and get something for them/us (usually something decorative, a vase, candles, wine glasses) along with candy and a gift card. I’d never had a boss/mentor do that. Nor have I had one since (though my postdoc boss paid on occasion for beer or wine).
But last year was different. Last year I felt pampered by the people I try to help. I want their experiments to work, as it reflects on both my place of work and my capacity to do my job in the best manner I can. It felt great to have people say thanks, give me and my supervisor a hug, invite us for lunch, or a cup of tea. It reaffirmed my belief that, although I was far away from my loved ones and buried in debt (I’m recovering from that but oh so very slowly), I still felt the love and care … all coming from people that had known me for months, in some cases weeks.
This year has been somewhat similar, though now I have more experience. I had someone pay for my lunch for letting them use a bit of bench space for a few hours over a couple of days. I had a PI send treats with their postdoc. I’ve been given hugs and thanks and emails with links to classics on youtube.
I’m thankful for the wonderful people I work with, the lives I impact with my humour or my ability to solve a problem or train. These perks mean more to me than anything material I can get. And I keep these memories in my heart.
This year, I did get another handmade ornament for our tree, honey. I’m looking forward to our future, and to have a little tree with ornaments from different times of our life, to share with our families.