Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree

During this "almost Christmas" time of year, after the kids go to bed, I often find myself in the living room.  Mostly because that is where our Christmas tree lives, and I only get to see it for one month out of the year.  If my husband had his way, it would be more like one week out of the year....but we compromise. Or I'm a bad compromiser.  One of those. 

Anyway, so the tree is up during the holiday season and I like to sit and read or write or post mindless drivel on Facebook in the dim light of the tree.  I must tell you our tree does  not come from the forest.  It emerges from the box in the closet each year.  Call me fake, tell me I'm shunning tradition and all that is right with the Christmas spirit.  I'll tell you something.  My tree doesn't need water, doesn't drop needles, doesn't fall over and doesn't drip sap on my carpet.  I've got a toddler and puppy in my house.  The last thing I need is one more beast to clean up after. 

But we're not here to debate the merits of real vs. fake (because clearly we all have an opinion on that hot topic).  I wanted to introduce you to my tree.  More importantly, the stuff ON my tree.  I love our Christmas tree because it is a 3-D storybook of our lives.  Each year as we unpack the decorations and find the perfect spot on the tree for each one, I am reminded of the many memories that each ornament represents. 

We have fragile ones and homemade ones.  There are works of beauty and some where beauty is only in the eye of the beholder.  Old ones, new ones, cute ones, tacky name it, we've probably got it on our tree. 

You've seen those stylish, color-coordinated trees that look like they were put together by a professional interior designer?  Yeah, that's not our tree.  Ours is more like a living scrapbook of our family....without the benefit of a Creative Memories consultant to make it look pretty and organized. 

We have the typical photo ornaments of the kids, travel keepsake ornaments from vacations past, and handmade gift ornaments from friends.  But we also have ornaments with a more interesting history than you might notice at first glance. 

On the lower branches, (the area reserved for unbreakable items), our blue fairy Godmother stands.  She is the one that hung on my tree as a child.  In the evenings when nobody else was around, I would whisper secrets to her like an imaginary best friend. 

Another "bottom dweller" is the cross-stitch Christmas teddy bear I made over 10 years ago.  It's not remarkable in its design or craftsmanship, but it catches my eye every year.  These days it mostly serves as a trinket of a life long past, when I had HOURS in the evening to sit quietly doing cross-stitch.  Uninterrupted hours are few and far between in my current stage of life, so that ornament reminds me that my life was once quiet.  And it will be quiet again someday.

Hung around the middle of the tree are strings of paper chains made by the littlest people in our family.  They are red and green, but don't follow any particular pattern.  The artists hung them up themselves, so they don't necessarily follow any design rules in their placement.  They are charming in their simplicity. 

Some of the more sentimental items include a delicate angel crafted by my aunt out of a small piece of my grandmother's wedding gown.  We also have four simple stars that we received as gifts in 2003 when my husband (then boyfriend) was deployed to Iraq.  Our friends, the Hergenraders, sent two star ornaments to Nick in Iraq, and two to me in California with instructions to hang the ornaments in our separate towns that Christmas and reunite them on one Christmas tree the following year.  Every year those stars remind me that the simplest, most beautiful gift is being together with those we love. 

One of my favorites is our pink beaded elephant, sitting atop a rainbow-sequined hill.  It's a gem, let me tell you.  I think "hideous" is a word that might come to mind when you see it, but I love it.  Mostly because it is hideous.  But also because someone in my family made it.  I'm not sure if it was my grandma or my great aunt....somebody crafty, that's for sure.  If you searched at WalMart or Target for 100 years, I don't think you would find anything quite like it.

Each of the kids has their own collection of ornaments that they have collected over the years.  I have a small collection of ornaments from my childhood.  Hubby is pretty nonchalant about any involvement in holiday decorating until his ribbon candy ornament comes out of the box.  Only then does he jump up and take charge of the ornament placement. 

Although our tree is fake, do not call it lifeless.  It holds on its branches the lives of five family members, intermingled, unique, beautiful, sentimental, crafty, imperfect and full of joy. 


  1. This is a great piece! Each Christmas there is a twinge of pain as we realize that our own tree is missing so much of our own family history, due to the loss of it all in the fire of '99. On the other hand, the loss of the tangible reminders gives rise to increased effort put into the remembering of those memories, even if filtered through the eyes of a much younger person. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Awww. I'm so glad to hear the ornaments are on the same tree. Our tree is much like yours. Beautifully nostalgic…but only to us.