Last week I posted about my dilemma regarding whether to put up a Christmas tree this year, mainly because we will not be home much during the holiday season, including Christmas morning. I probably left my readers with the expectation that I was closer to NOT putting up a tree than putting one up. That is because of my mindset at the time. For the first time, ever, I could envision not having a Christmas tree, and I felt ok about it.
I was so torn, going back and forth in my mind and about the decision, and it was divided. Until I got home from our trip to NYC. I tried to talk myself out of the tree, but I couldn’t. It just did not feel right to not have a tree. And when a neighbor told me that she is Swiss, and trees are put up on Christmas Eve in Switzerland, I felt ok to put up a tree less than two weeks from Christmas Day. I needed something to push me in one direction or the other, and that was it!
The tree that you see in this photo is our smallest tree ever. I did not plan for it to be, but it is. It was the largest of the two trees of this size left on the lot. I knew it was small, and I considered going to another tree lot for a larger tree, but I convinced myself that it was ok if it was small, for I wasn’t even sure I would have one at all! Until I got it home and set it up in its location, and it looked even smaller. I was disappointed, and did not even want to decorate it, but I did. Mike was out of town, so our friend Maureen put the lights on, all the while calling it a Charlie Brown tree! That did not help at all.
Then I began to decorate the tree, and my mood about it changed. I immediately realized it isn’t about the tree at all, but the memories, best represented by the ornaments.
Each year, all 34 of them that we have been together, Mike has designed and purchased a family ornament. Each year’s ornament has the year, the # of years this family has been together, and the names of all of those who are with us on Christmas morning. Each ornament is a history lesson. If you look closely at this year’s tree, you can see the 2015 ornament, with Dr. Danks (Mike), Nana (Patti), Uncle Barry, MoMo, Stephen, Tara Leigh, Ms. Grace, (Mary Grace), Middle Mac, (Elsie), Little Miss Chatham (Virginia), Miss Chatham, and Johnathan. The only qualification to be on the ornament is that you are at the house on Christmas morning, which usually means you sleep at the house on Christmas Eve. Some years, such as this year, “home” is at Tara and Stephen’s in Georgia, and the ornament identifies that. There is also the ornament from the year “home” was Bay Meadow Court in Northridge in Raleigh, where we lived for seven months while our house was being repaired from water damage. Then there are the ornaments when my mother was with us, as well as when Dad and Rosie were with us. The history lesson is that the names on the ornaments remind us of the circumstances surrounding some of our family being with us for Christmas those years.
With this year’s tree being so small, it was not possible to put all of our ornaments on the tree. Choices had to be made. All of the family ornaments made the “cut”, as well as the White House Christmas ornaments Mike has ordered each year. There are also ornaments made by or collected by our children when they were younger. All of these ornaments are precious to us.
My friend Anna who passed away recently at 59 years of age had given me Christmas tree ornaments from the UK where she lived the last few years. They are on this year’s tree, and likely will grace all trees hence forth.
So, the Christmas tree is not just a tree. It is a repository of memories collected through the years. It reflects our traditions. It is our history.
When I am no longer able to put up a Christmas tree, I won’t. But I will not make that decision because I am too busy, or too tired. When age takes over and the sheer effort is too much, it will be ok to enjoy the Christmas season without the tree. But not until then.
Until then, I will continue to decorate the Christmas tree and enjoy the memories the ornaments stimulate. I will go back in time and relive those precious moments. I will lose myself in the memories, and marvel at how fast time has passed.
I look at our tree, and do not see it is small. I only see what it represents as our history. And that is more than enough to make the effort worthwhile.