Decorating the Christmas tree is becoming more and more a chore that I try to delay.
It’s not that I don’t like Christmas. In fact, I love it. But as the years creep up on me I dread the task of dragging those heavy boxes of ornaments up from storage and deciding how I’ll go about decorating the tree and the house.
It’s a big house and I have continued to add to our humble collection of ornaments and knick-knacks over the many years that l’ve been married. Decorating a tree and a house is no one day affair. And that might just be the problem.
While I have added to the collection, I’ve thrown very little out. Of course, things have broken, and color schemes have changed, and those ornaments have been tossed. But the sentimental ones are still around, and a lifetime of memories are tied up in those treasures.
I’m ever so grateful that our daughter, now married, with a family of her own, has happened by with youngest granddaughter in tow. I sheepishly ask her to help me get the decorating started and she jumps right in. I say this with tongue in cheek as I remember a time when she would run the other way because I was so ridiculous about how the balls should be placed on the tree. I always ended up redecorating, so each ornament was positioned, in just the right order, with colors being varied and spaced accordingly.
Sounds crazy but I’m certain my children thought that I was the crazy one. And so I was.
This time I am grateful for the help. The process of placing balls on the tree goes rather quickly and I am careful not to check whether things are placed according to my lofty specifications. In fact, if she hadn’t started me off, I’d still be staring at empty branches. The balls and odd ornaments in this crate are just the beginning. Most of them are plastic and I use them as colorful fillers for the more important ornaments that will eventually be added to the assortment. As we place those plastic trimmings on the tree, her youngest child, my youngest and only granddaughter, hands them to us until she breaks away to play with one that has captured her interest.
Mother and daughter are left to converse about this and that. The conversation breaks the monotony and, in my mind, I quietly thank God for this daughter and her sweet exchange of pleasantries, who has saved me from a task I found myself dreading.
Time passes quickly and sweetly like this and I am sorry when my daughter and granddaughter must leave. But I am now on a mission to finish what was started.
I close up the empty crate and carry it down to its storage place and I drag out the next crate, so carefully labeled a year earlier, of content and room it is to be placed in. I carry it up and begin the exercise of carefully unwrapping each ornament that has waited a year to adorn our tree.
Time moves slowly now, as I tenderly cradle each ornament in my hands, deciding just where it should be placed on the tree. I find myself reminiscing how each ornament has a history of its own. It warms my heart.
Where will this ornament from our very first Christmas tree be placed?
How can I get the most precious trimmings on the front and sides of the tree where everyone can appreciate them?
And which ones will I place on the window side so they’ll look pretty from the street?
How can I place these, so the grandchildren can delight over them?
As I pick up each ornament, I am transported to a time and place from my past and the past of those I hold most dear.
* Baby’s first Christmas, a glass ball from our middle daughter’s first Christmas. It is faded and dull but it holds a place in my heart that speaks of the importance of the birth of a daughter. Right up top and center with that one.
* A little red 🥁 drum made of a cut ring from a cardboard toilet paper roll, covered with felt ribbon, as wide as the ring, embellished with some gold trim, and holding the cut end of a red stirrer with the ball tip still attached (the drumstick). Our firstborn (son) made this in preschool many years before. I can still see his happy face as he presented me with this gift.
* An angel that our youngest daughter gave me for Christmas when she was a teenager inscribed with the word, “peace.” A very thoughtful gift for me, since I love angels and have taught my children about their guardian angels, from the time they were little.
A little lump forms in my throat as I realize the wondrous accumulation of memories from very happy, and sometimes sad times, from years that were lean, and from years of plenty, from years of growing and of growth, that have been preserved in these ornaments. Some I have purchased. Some have been gifts from friends, students, and family. Some have been purchased to commemorate the passing of a loved one and to signify that they are still very much alive in our hearts. All hold a place of significance, of warm memories and of love deep in my heart.