Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Un-Fashionable Christmas Tree

Take away all the arguments about how Christmas should or shouldn't be celebrated, all the talk about calories, and even the self-imposed drama...and still, I absolutely love this season of the year, if for no other reason that because I appreciate beauty.   Walk into any florist or department store, and you will be confronted with an artistic vision of loveliness packaged in at least one Christmas tree.

You know the trees I’m talking about, the kind where everything matches from tree skirt to topper, where there are no ugly paper "ornaments" young children made in school, none awkwardly glued back together after an altercation with said child (or maybe the family pet).

Over the past few years, I’ve watched Facebook photos depict a trend shifting away from angels hovering from on high to decadent ribbon bows that weave glittery trails down from that uppermost perch.  I’ve also watched the family tree turn into little more than a generic decoration, one that could be stuffed in the van, transported down the street to the neighbor’s house, and plopped down in that new space, all without anyone knowing the difference.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love those trees.  I drool over your perfectly spaced ornaments all in perfect ombre gradations of blues and silvers.  I longingly gaze at the rolls of ribbon woven sparkling throughout your branches and think how perfectly they would accent my own home’s decor.  Sometimes, I even grow a bit envious of your well-lit branches that shine a pristine glow of bright white through your front door as I pass by.

But when it comes time to erect my own family's tree each year, I don’t go out and buy the seven foot green pre-lit one I always said I’d own whenever I had a house of my own.  I don’t buy the perfectly matched ornaments of fashion that I still give a wistful glance each time I ever so slowly stroll by that aisle of the store.

No.  Instead, I pull out the same retro pink tinsel tree and with eyes aglow, open the treasure box that houses so many priceless gems from years gone by.

There are the dozens of crocheted snowflakes my mother stitched and starched, the beaded snowflakes, angels, soldiers, and candy canes she I made in bulk, many with fellow GA's and Acteens at church.
There is the yo yo candy cane I used for my "how to" speech in that 3:15 pm college speech class on Tuesday/Thursday, the one with the uber-feminist teacher who scared me speechless.  On the same branch hang the blue mittens one of my Bible study ladies knitted and the African cloth-covered ball from a WMU meeting, ever reminding me each year to pray for a people group I will likely never meet face to face this side of heaven.
Close near the bottom is the hand painted reminder of Mia, as well as both her well-worn collar and that of her brother, Ming, my first two adopted cats who filled my heart when I could not yet fill that hole with the children I longed for.
Then come a friend's gift of crocheted wreaths, all bearing images of my babies in years past.  The baby's first Christmas ornaments.  The Lenox bells celebrating husband's first Christmas together with me in marriage.  They join together with dozens of others, an eclectic blend of the handmade hung beside a purple cross, Scripture-glittered balls, the Poky Little Puppy, Cat in the Hat, and John Deere, each which has its own story to tell.
At the top go those most precious, those I still want far out of my children's reach.  But "precious" doesn't mean "fashionable" or even worth anything at all.  Always out of reach is the gingerbread with the gnawed off arm along with the face and buttons carefully picked off by tiny little fingers--my tiny little fingers that couldn't imagine a world where what looked like a cookie wasn't actually a cookie.
Nearby is the tiny angel formed of glitter-rimmed tulle, a dented Styrofoam head, age-yellowed cotton ball hair, and crinkled aluminum foil wings--a craft my mother created so many years ago in her youth.

These are the treasures that decorate our tree, each telling part of our story, each revealing something about each of us five individuals who live together collectively as a family beneath this roof.

These are the stories we tell year after year as we decorate, tales so oft repeated that they knit together to form the very tapestry of our family that shines, albeit with a different kind of beauty each Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. I love it. This is exactly what our tree looks like - with many of the same ornaments, in fact! We must be related :) It's really like a scrapbook, isn't? Telling the story of different seasons and milestones in our lives. I love that it's a combined version of Johnathan's childhood and mine and now our family together. I think that is beautiful.

    P.S. - We have a styrofoam and tulle angel just like the last picture you posted, but Johnathan thinks it was made by your Grandma Maggie?? It is up high out of the reach of Stella and visiting children here too :)