I can’t believe that once again it’s time to break out the Christmas ornaments and decorate the tree.
Yes, many of you had your trees up and decorated weeks ago. My two sisters had their homes beautifully decorated shortly after Thanksgiving. They mailed their Christmas cards by December 1.
We just put up our tree today, and once again I’m skipping the Christmas cards. The closer I get to 50, the more of a rebel I become.
Actually, because our oldest son, Tom, is a December baby, we make a conscious effort not to decorate until after his birthday has come and gone.
Well, his birthday was two weeks ago, Christmas is three days away, and we’re out of excuses.
Each year we buy a real tree. Ideally this is something we like to do as a family. We’ve had a few years where the flu has hit us, and Joe will go with just one or two of the kids. But this year was the first time we had a voluntary defector.
Now that Tom is 16, I think he figured he could skip the annual Christmas tree hunt. It was very strange going without him this year. He’s growing up. Fast.
Once Lizzy, Peter, and I talked Joe out of the twig he wanted to buy, we were quite happy with this year’s purchase. In the past we put the tree right up, but we were so worn out Saturday from watching the very nice men cut and tie up our tree, that we decided to postpone our annual that’s-not-the-way-you-put-up-a-tree argument for Sunday.
Yes, we could skip this part of the tradition, but after 21 years of marriage, I’ve grown so fond of wanting to pull out every strand of my hair, I know I would miss it.
Now that the tree is finally up and in its stand, we’ve stared at it and waited for a wandering elf to put the lights on. While I was growing up, this job always fell to my father, who would use language I only heard once a year while he put on the lights.
More times than not, it’s all five foot three of me who has the job of putting on the lights. I do this because I honestly feel if I left it to Joe, we wouldn’t have the tree decorated before Memorial Day.
This is when part two of the traditional argument occurs. I may add the my-sisters-already-have-their-trees-up-and-their-husbands-did-most-of-it encore argument, but that’s not mandatory for me to get the most out of the holiday.
By this time Joe and I are laughing so hard that although I’m very frustrated, I’m secretly glad I married someone who can make me laugh. It would be nice if he would take just a little interest in the tree one year. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself and ruin the fun of a good argument.
Once the lights are on the tree, it’s time to hang the ornaments.
I love this part.
If I was a nice mommy, I wouldn’t think twice about having my kids put the ornaments on the tree wherever and however they wanted to. But I have to admit, I’m a bit territorial about the tree.
I’m not a person that’s really big on possessions. I love having pretty things, but I’m not one to collect things anymore.
I was also raised by a mother that had some lovely things but never got upset if something was broken by one of my sisters or me. She may not have been thrilled, but she never made us feel bad. She would always say people are more important than things, and I grew up feeling the same way.
That is, unless it’s a Christmas ornament. Then I become possessive.
I love my ornaments. I’ve collected them through the years, and they represent everything from the time I worked in an office, got married, had each of my children, and watched them grow.
The big glass school bus the year Tom was obsessed with counting buses, or the Paddington Bear ornament that he still loves to see on the tree each year. The glass carousel giraffe my mother brought back for Lizzy from Nantucket the year she was planning my sister’s wedding. Or the teddy bear ornament found for Peter to represent his dear stuffed bear, Fuzzy.
Unlike my mom, who would think nothing of letting my sisters and I hang her beautiful hand-blown glass ornaments, I get twitchy just thinking of letting my children, who I love more than words can say, get their little hands on my precious collection.
I’ve relished my solitary time tying my ornaments and thinking of the people and times they represent.
But three years ago I finally gave in to my children’s pleas to be involved in decorating the tree. I was actually starting to feel like Scrooge keeping them from something they so clearly wanted to be a part of.
Turns out that watching the three children I brought into this world decorate the branches and watch the tree transform into a monument of Christmases past has become something I have come to really cherish.
I love hearing Lizzy giggle as she plays with the ballerina and Barbie ornaments she loves. It warms my heart to see Tom stop torturing Peter long enough to help him pick out just the right spot to put the train ornament I bought the year I was pregnant with him. I love answering questions about who gave us what or where we were living when we received it.
I may cringe every now and then, but in the end, my mother was right. They are just things. The experience and memory of being with my kids is far more valuable than any ornament I could ever own.
*This piece has become something of a tradition on the Dishwasher. It first ran on December 18, 2011, under the name, O’ Christmas Tree. Then it ran again last year, December 15, 2013, under the title, Memories Tied on the Branches of a Christmas Tree. Each year it gets updated and changes as my family does.
I would like to wish all who celebrate a very Merry Christmas. Thank you so much for allowing me to share a bit of my family with you.