Well it’s time to break out the box of Christmas ornaments and decorate the Christmas tree.
Many of you may have had your trees up for weeks and be wondering what took me so long. My two sisters had their homes decked out like Santa’s workshop the day after Thanksgiving, and their Christmas cards were in the mail by December 1.
My tree is not up and I’m skipping the Christmas card this year. At the age of 46, I’ve become a bit of a rebel.
Actually, since my oldest son’s birthday is in the middle of December we make a conscious effort not to decorate until after his birthday has come and gone. But, well, his birthday has come and gone so we have to get to it.
Each year we buy a real tree. Ideally all five of us go and pick the tree out, but lately it’s been my husband and one or two of the kids. For some reason the last few Christmases have seen at least one kid down with strep throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, or some other illness.
So far it just seems to be a cold that has all my babies sneezing and wheezing their way through copious amounts of tissues. I think we have a really good chance it will be all five of us making the holiday pilgrimage this year.
The one caveat we have in picking out our Christmas tree is that it must not be any taller than daddy. Joe is 6 feet, and this gives the kids a pretty good assortment to choose from and it gives me a great laugh each year as they go through the lot and try to measure it against their dad.
Once the tree is safely tied up to the roof of our minivan, it’s back home to the annual that’s-not-the-way-you-put-up-a-tree argument Joe and I have each year. We could skip this part of the tradition, but I’ve grown so fond of wanting to pull out every strand of my hair, I think I would really miss it.
When the tree is finally up and in its stand, we all kind of look at it waiting for some elf to put the lights on it. While I was growing up, this job always fell to my father who would use language I only heard once a year when he was working 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 this to Joe, we would not 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 secretly am glad I married someone who can make me laugh. Though, it would be nice if he would take just a little interest in the tree one year, but I dont’ want to get ahead of myself and ruin the fun of the annual argument.
Once the lights are on the tree, it’s time to hang the ornaments.
I love this part.
I know that in a perfect world I would have my children putting up the ornaments while I was stringing popcorn and singing Christmas carols, but I have to admit, I’m a bit territorial about the tree.
I’m not a person that is 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 ended up 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.
All of a sudden my nice-mommy persona goes out the window, and I become possessed.
I love my ornaments. They have been collected throughout the years and represent everything from the time I worked in an office, to when I got married, had each of my children, and watched them grow.
There are the crystal ornaments that my sister-in-law would send us each year before we had our children. The elegant, delicate, designer ornaments my co-workers would give me when I was working and even a few really pretty ones my mother and sisters have given me throughout the years.
There are delicate porcelain and glass ornaments that represent the births of my children and my children’s changing interests through the year.
The big glass school bus the year Tom was obsessed with counting buses, or the Paddignton 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 my mom found for Peter to represent his dear stuffed bear Fuzzy.
Ballerinas, puppies, and trucks–I love to look at them all and remember the people who gave them to me and my children. Happily many people are still in our lives, but others are separated by time and circumstance, or are no longer here and only live on in our hearts.
There are ornaments that might not be glass, china, or silver but are priceless nonetheless. The rag doll bride and groom bunny my mother gave me the year I was getting married. The pearl bells my Aunt Margaret made as favors for my bridal shower. Or the ornament I bought when I was on my honeymoon.
My life tied on the branches of a Christmas tree.
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 have enjoyed my solitary time tying my orments and thinking of the people and times they represent.
But, last year the kids really wanted to be involved. I was starting to feel like Scrooge keeping them from something they so clearly wanted to be a part of.
Surprisingly, I loved it. I would cringe every now and then, but in the end, my mother was right, they are just things. The experience and memory of my kids helping me were worth a few broken ornaments.
I stood alongside Tom as he helped Peter and Lizzy pick out decorations and place them on the branches. I loved hearing Lizzy giggle as she played with the ballerinas that Joe’s sister has given her. I was thrilled as Peter picked just the right spot for a train ornament I got the year I was pregnant with him.
Questions about who gave us what or where we were living when we received it turned out to be more valuable than any ornament with an exclusive name on it.
I hate it when my mother turns out to be right!
Postscript: The tree is up and it looks great! The yearly holiday argument did not disappoint, and thankfully we still laugh. The kids helped and did a great job and acted exactly the way I knew they would. Peter was very exact and put each ornament where it would look best. Lizzy played with the ballerinas and put on the small tiara ornament while Tom complimented everyone on a job well done. And, my husband put the lights on this year. (We do not have to get into the fact that he says he has done it each year we have been married. I have to leave something to write about next year!)
I wish everyone wonderful memories this year and a very happy, and healthy holiday season!