A pink tree for Christmas
Harbour Grace mom’s memory lives on through Christmas traditions
Harbour Grace’s Alyssa Shaw has a pink Christmas tree.
For the second year in a row, the 22-year-old will set up the three-foot artificial spruce in memory of the most important woman in her life, her mom.
Deborah (Debbie) Bray lost her battle with breast cancer March 22, 2013. It’s Alyssa’s traditions that she shared with her mom that help her get through the holidays.
What started as a nice gesture turned into one of the most important traditions for Alyssa and her mom.
In 2010, Alyssa and her friend attended Christmas at the Glacier in Mount Pearl. She saw a beautiful horse ornament, and immediately thought of her mom.
“I remember one year, I bought a gorgeous tree ornament that was sparkling with gold glitter that had caught my attention,” Alyssa told The Compass from her kitchen Dec. 8. “It was a horse, my mother’s passion. I remember her reaction when she opened it on Christmas morning. She absolutely loved it.”
She hoped Debbie could join them the following year to get an ornament of her own. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and couldn’t make the drive to town.
“I went back that year and bought her a cancer ribbon tree ornament,” Alyssa said.
In 2012, she went back to the Glacier, once again without her mother. She started a collection of cancer-related ornaments and special decorations that she and her mother could share.
“Every year after that horse ornament, she always said, ‘We’ll go next year. I can’t wait,’” Alyssa recalled. “Her battle with cancer was never going to stop her positive spirit.”
Debbie died the following year and never got to experience Christmas at the Glacier with her daughter. But it’s something Alyssa continues to do with her boyfriend, Ryan. Her first stop is always for an ornament.
“Every year now, as I hang her ornaments on my small pink Christmas tree, I smile as I remember her reaction when receiving them,” she said. “Instead of being upset that she never got to go to the event herself, I smile as I know her spirit is with me every time I pick out a new Christmas addition for my tree.”
Alyssa’s tree was not set up yet during the visit because she was studying for university exams. When Alyssa decorates, she turns on her mom’s favourite Elvis Presley album and sings out loud.
“I smile the entire time as I relive her memory,” she said.
Picking a tree
For many years, Alyssa can recall taking a horse drawn sleigh into the woods with her mom to pick out a tree. These were some of her favourite and most humorous Christmas moments she can recall sharing with her mom, and she always got to pick the Christmas tree.
“I was nine years old, and Mom’s friend Terry, mom and I went in to the woods to cut down a tree,” she laughed, remembering the tree she picked was buried in snow. “The snow was up to mom’s waist. I remember Terry saying, ‘Are you sure you want this tree?’”
They struggled to get to the tree and chop it down. Alyssa got stuck.
“We were in the woods for like five hours,” she said. “But we finally got it loaded on the sleigh and headed back.”
Years went by, and Alyssa became an apathetic teenager, at least when it came to picking out the tree.
“One year, I let mom pick out the tree,” she giggled. “It was the ugliest Christmas tree I had ever seen. We called it our Charlie Brown Christmas tree. She did it on purpose.”
Alyssa will not have a full-size tree this year, just her pink one, since it is the one that truly captures her Christmas memories and traditions.
“This tradition puts me in the Christmas spirit and will continue to create fond memories for years to come,” she said.
Although her mom is not with her, Alyssa said she will continue on with her traditions, and having her father visit is turning into a new one.
Her father lives in Mississauga. Last year, he came to Newfoundland for the first time to spend some of Christmas with his daughter.
“Last year he helped me pack up some of mom’s things,” she said, looking down at the kitchen table. “It was hard, but exciting at the same time.”
This year, he is returning for a longer visit, and Alyssa hopes to incorporate some Newfoundland and local traditions into his stay.
“We’re going to go to Port de Grave on Christmas Eve to see the boats,” she said.
Although the new traditions are happy ones, Alyssa said she will continue to keep the memory of her mother alive.
She pledged to put up her pink tree each year, decorate it with her ornaments and recall the many amazing memories they shared during the Christmas season and her lifetime.
Although she has not put her pink tree up yet, Alyssa Shaw has her ornaments ready to decorate. Her tree and its ornaments honour the memory of her mother, Debbie Bray, who lost her battle with breast cancer last year.