Sometimes I feel like a Victorian Christmas tree trapped in a Farside cartoon. I am the sentimental female in a house full of males who would rather use the garland for swinging from the ceiling fan than dress the Christmas tree. I am the one working on "a place for every ornament and every ornament in its place" long after the boys are in bed and my husband has moved on to drinking beer on the couch. I can't help myself. There are few things that say Christmas to me with pure unbridled joy and affection than my Christmas tree. As soon as we get the lights on, I turn all the other lights off so I can bathe in the glow of non-LED white and colored lights. I do keep a flashlight nearby in case I need to find a missing hook.
The main reason I love my Christmas tree? The ornaments. And it isn't that I have beautiful ornaments--I do, but it's the stories attached to the ornaments. I spend a couple of hours (yes truly) unwrapping each and every ornament. There are a few that don't make the cut, but I still look at them and remember the story attached to them. My Christmas tree and the memories I relive while decorating it, suspend me in a perfect moment of love and harmony and happiness that I don't experience at any other time through the year.
Here is a list of some of my favorites (if I get technology savvy maybe I can eventually add pictures).
1. My green thumbprint turtle from 1980 that I made in preschool. I don't actually remember making this one, but it has had a prominent place on every tree I've ever had since 1980 so it's worth listing.
2. My green bead wreath I made in primary Sunday School class with Bonnie Whitley.
3. My clothespin Rudolph I made at our first lake house on Badin Lake with my friends in Children's Hour from church. He's missing a google eye now, but otherwise Rudolph is in good health.
4. My Raggedy Anne ornament sewed by our neighbor Meredith in 1980 for me for Christmas.
5. My NC Zoo Ornament with a picture of the first gorilla ever born at the zoo.
6. "Merry Christmas Mar" ornament from my freshman college roommate Mo.
7. My "Christmas GSW 93" ornament made by my friend from Governor's School, Leslie.
8. My "First Christmas" ornament given to me by my sophomore college roommate, Catherine at my wedding.
9. The ornament my students made me from my first school in Chattanooga. Thanks Mrs. Hayes' class at East Side!
10. My SPCC ornament given to us during our inaugural season of the Southern Piedmont Children's Choir.
There are many, many more including the ornaments I have bought for my boys each year. Their baby's first ornaments were purchased with so much love and hope. Every time I watch the boys hang them I go back to that place when I carried them inside me and remember how precious that time was. My mother also finds beautiful ornaments to give them. Each year as we put them away, I pull out a sharpie and label them so there is no argument for the following year! I have ornaments from our vacations--Phoenix, Disney, Steamboat. I have all the ornaments from our first year (1999) as a married couple. Getting married the Saturday after Thanksgiving opens the door for many such gifts. I cherish every one of them too.
This year my boys were old enough to "help." They each have a box of their own ornaments and are allowed to hang them each year with help. This year they just kept going and helped me hang most of the ornaments. It was our first family tree affair, which is special in its own way. My boys kept going "oooooh" and "LOOK!" and "that's funny." But my favorite was, "mom, tell me about this one." I tried not to get choked up, because it was a time of joy and I didn't want to confuse the boys with my tears. My husband is also quite good at sending me off to the kitchen for something when I start getting too uptight about where the ornaments go and why the boys are trying to hang them without hooks and keep dropping them. "You can move them later," he reminds me. Good man.
I was just blowing off steam earlier today about not being in the Christmas spirit. Nothing like our Christmas tree to give me a right change of heart. Bring on the season, I'm ready now. My heart is full of gratefulness and grace. Thank you God for beautiful memories of good times and for my yearly Christmas tree. I have been to my special place and I'm ready to make space for the grace of the season. Peace be among you during the holidays and always.