Monday, December 6, 2010

evergreen branches dripping with sweet memories

Growing up, I remember decorating the Christmas tree with my family every year.  Sometimes, we’d just have to go out into the woods behind the house and chop it down, but on occasion, the tree would come home to us, tied on top of the car.  No matter how it came to us, it was always real and smelled of sweet pine.
My dad would string the lights and the rest of us would cover the tree in all of our favorite ornaments.  I’m sad to say that I do remember a few years when those musical, twinkling, dancing blue lights hung from the branches, but I blame the ‘90s.  Beyond those crazy little things, I know we had colored lights, large and small, and white ones too.  I didn’t know better then, but now I’d have some objections. 
But the best part was all the ornaments, with a family of five kids, you can guarantee that a majority of them were Sunday school projects and naturally, these beauties wouldn’t win any contests, but that didn’t matter because we made them.  Each of us had certain ones that WE had to put on the tree, every year, it was serious ordeal.  Then there was a mix of ornaments that my mom thought were pretty, you know, the kind of  things that moms think are pretty… but no one else does,  we never fought over those.  However, no ornaments were rejected on our wonderful eclectic tree covered in years of memories.  That’s the way we liked it.
Looking back, I can say that my white felt dove from Sunday school was probably a bit disfigured and the macaroni angels that started looking haggard and worn after a few years, but I still loved them all.  I loved the stories and memories that covered our tree every Christmas season.  It was perfect.
And then one year came the heresy of all heresies, brace yourself, it gets bad.  My parents came home from Lowes with some supplies for another  project around the house and something else that can only be described as a terribly, impulsive purchase.
A white artificial Christmas tree. 
It gets worse.
Along with that “tree” were boxes and boxes of bulbs, strings of beads, ribbons, and glass ornaments that were ALL iridescent and purple.  All of them.  White tree. Purple lights and perfectly matching, obnoxiously matching ornaments. 
We were outraged.  I mean, outraged.  Who buys a fake tree?  Don’t you know trees are green, not white?  Why do we need matching ornaments? What about all of the ones that we made and love?  How could you do this to us?  Don’t you love us?  What kind of Christmas will this be with your new fake matching tree?  What do you mean there’s no Santa?  You ruined Christmas.
I can’t be sure, but it probably went down something like that.  But, they thought it was pretty and I guess pretty was more important than ruining Christmas forever.
I like to think that we were super convincing because even after bringing that monstrosity into our home, we still got a real tree and covered it with our beautiful creations of felt and glued together, glittery noodles.   Their “tree” went in the family room downstairs, while our tree reigned victoriously upstairs for all to see.  I think we even insisted that gifts be opened around our tree too, but I might be making that part up, it’s all a bit hazy.
I even remember at some point the moment that our dear mother broke our hearts by saying that our childhood ornaments weren’t ever really as pretty as her new purple ones.  Perhaps, she thought we were old enough to handle such a cruel and damaging statement, but she was wrong and every year I remind her of this wound when I see that fake, all- matching tree.  I suppose one day, I should let it go, but I can’t say I see that happening any time soon. Besides, it’s kind of fun to bring up every single year. 
Oh, how our childhood affects us so.
My husband never had a real tree growing up, but he quickly agreed that we would be  a real tree family.  I sure picked a good one.  For the first three years of our marriage, we bought a small tree and only added a handful of new ornaments each Christmas.  This year, we bought our first big tree and it's covered with a collection of beautiful and random pieces.  I write the year on each one, so that one day we’ll look back and remember the ornaments we bought for our first Christmas or the ones that H helped pick out when he was two.  Each year, we find at least one photo frame ornament to capture that time in our lives, our family just as it was.  2007 shows just the two of us, our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs.  In 2008, there were 3.  Next Christmas, our little frame will contain a picture of four.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the volumes that will spill from those branches in twenty years.
I guess what I’m saying is that I love my real tree that smells of decadent pine and covers the floor in hundreds of little green needles.  I love how our tree says something about our family, with Santa riding on trains and sailboats, shiny silver snowflakes, Starbucks ornaments, and even a funny little bird in a striped red and grey hat.  And this year, you’ll find the ornament that H chose, a wooden zebra sitting at the very top of the tree, at first as a joke, but after a while it was clear that would be his home for the Christmas of 2010.  Each treasure hanging from the branches is more than ornament, it’s a memory and a celebration of our little family and to me that is what makes Christmas so magical.
So what about you?  We don’t all have to be the same.  What does your Christmas tree say about you?  Real or fake?  All matching? A color scheme? Covered in vintage, eclectic ornaments? Ribbons? White lights or colored?  Whatever the case, what do you love most about it?  What makes your tree so special and so magical to you?


1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes, childhood traditions. I still have those 20-year old VBS ornaments on my tree today. It's hard to ditch them. :)

    My mom started a little tradition that every year each kid would get an ornament with the year on it. Then when we left the house, we'd have 20-something ornaments to fill a tree of our own. It's the best.


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