Tonight my husband and I started decorating for Christmas.

It’s different now.

We slowly put up the tree these days, using the same decorations we’ve used every year, but as we look through our boxes of ornaments, we see more than tiny figures, we now see memories.

We have 36 Christmases stored in those boxes. A lifetime really, and a lot has happened in that time.

We didn’t even have a tree that first Christmas. We laughed as we talked about that tonight, remembering our tiny apartment that was really just one room, plenty big enough for the two of us even if it wasn’t big enough to hold a tree.

We looked at ornaments that made the years melt away, taking us back to a time when we first held a baby on our laps as we helped her open her first-ever presents, then to a time when we had two little ones running around excitedly helping us put the ornaments on the bottom of the tree where their tiny hands could reach.

RELATED: Christmas As a Kid Was Magical—But Nothing Tops Christmas As a Mom

There were memories of traditions we thought would go on foreverbefore we understood the changes that would come with growing up.

Our children grew up, but so did we.

And tonight we did a very grown-up thing. We decorated without the sound of children surrounding us, without looking at each other over the heads of little ones whose eyes lit up with excitement. And we didn’t finishsomething that would have been unheard of before it was just the two of us.

We left the tree unfinished with ornaments strewn all over the floor. They will wait for us, for when we are ready to add them to the tree.

I know when we finally finish decorating, we’ll step back and look at our tree while we each pull out the separate memories we hold in our hearts, letting them mingle with the happiness of this year.

Even as we enjoyed so many memories tonight, we didn’t remember everything about every Christmas. Trust me, no matter where you’re at in this journey, you won’t remember it all either. It’s nice to think we won’t forget, but we do.

RELATED: Dear Mom, Everything I Do To Make Christmas Magical For My Kids is Because You Made it Magical For Me First

I’m grateful for the memories that chose to come back to me tonight. I’m glad to, even for a moment, relive what life was like for a much-younger me. I’m sure my husband felt the same way as memories washed over him too.

I hope when our children come and visit this year that their eyes will scan the room, the one where they celebrated every Christmas as children, and land on a memory.

I hope for just a minute or two they go back in time, each remembering when they were little. I hope the memories of Christmas help them see us as the parents they used to have, the people we were before they grew up.

Our children have grown up and moved away. I guess we always knew that would happen, but it still takes us by surprise every now and again. Like tonight, tonight when we looked at all those ornaments on the floor, spread out like the 18 quick years of their childhood they represent. We both felt it, the way our past seemed to collide with where we’re at now.

RELATED: 10 Simple Christmas Traditions To Start With Your Family

After we finish decorating this week, I plan to leave a few ornaments on the couch with the hooks already attached. Ornaments I could easily put on the tree myself, but I won’t.

You see, a few years ago our family grew, and with it so did our traditions.

Those ornaments will cause our grandchildren to lift their little voices while their eyes light up as they gently place each one on the tree.

I know my eyes will look around the room and find my husband. I know he’ll be thinking the same thoughts as me. This new tradition will form new memories too. Ones that our grandchildren can one day pull out as they remember the loved ones in their life, remember the fun of Christmas.

I’m glad it’s finally this time of year even though it looks nothing like the ones I remember from years ago.

Christmas has a way of shifting memories around, letting us enjoy the present without leaving the past too far behind.

Sandy Brannan

Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, is a high school English teacher. Creating memories with her grandchildren is her idea of a perfect day. You can follow Sandy and read more of her writing at https://sandybrannan.com  and .