When I was a little girl, my mom and dad bought this beautiful garland for our tree. Well, I was eight and I thought it was beautiful. It was red with a red and white gingham check pattern in the middle. It wasn’t like all the other garland that everyone else had and I loved it. On Christmas morning that year, I don’t remember the presents that were under the tree at all. I remember how beautiful it was, I remember that Santa had been there and turned on the lights and made everything look like magic. I remember the awe and the wonder and believing that miracles could happen.
I think I might have gotten a cabbage patch kid that year.
The presents are not important to my thirty something year old mind. I remember the magic the wonder and the love and how the tree was really all about that.
My mother decorates the most beautiful Christmas trees. I have always endeavored to follow in her footsteps, but I have never received a single compliment about my tree from anyone other than my husband. I try hard, but I don’t know that anyone ever really understands the components of a Christmas tree. What puts it together for me and makes it beautiful and perfect, is not the same for someone else.
Mine developed like this:
When I first moved out, I had a small box filled maybe five ornaments that belonged to me from the family Christmas tree. I still have those five ornaments. They have stood the test of time. There’s the little holly hobby girl in her white dress and red checked apron. I’m not sure who got her for me, but I love her, I had holly hobby quilts in my bedroom growing up that my grandmother gave me. There are a lot of memories attached to that little ornament. There is also a little mouse my grandmother cross stitched for me when I was 13 years old, the year my brother was born, and a couple of hallmark ornaments purchased for my tree that year.
When my great grandmother passed away, I was gifted with a box of her Christmas ornaments. She had copies of some of my favorite ornaments on my mother’s Christmas tree. I was so grateful to receive them, and still have every one of the ornaments from my great grandmother’s tree, and hang them on my own tree every single year. I miss her, she was a weird lady to me, but she was also a truly lovely human being. I think of her every year on Christmas and say a prayer to God to keep her safe in heaven while I’m trimming the tree.
There was more sentiment to come, of course.
Every year, my mother and grandmother sent me Christmas ornaments, just one or two here and there. I loved them and still treasure each one. When my daughter was born, my grandmother began collecting Barbie hallmark ornaments for her. These line the top of my tree every year. There are mice sitting on floppy disks and computer themed ornaments galore, because, you know, we’re nerds. All sorts of brick-a-brack was sent to me with an obvious idea or thought of it being perfect for my tree and every single one of these odd, quirky little things, is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
This trend continued until one year when my mother went through a weird carpentry phase and she manufactured a box full of wooden, hand-painted ornaments for my tree. That was the year my husband and I bought our house and we celebrated by buying ourselves a brand new, gigantic Christmas tree and a bunch of hand blown glass ornaments.
Those of you who have read my blog over the years, will recall that tree as being the one that tried to kill me every Christmas for the first five years that we lived in this house, but it was ours. It was the first tree that we really did together and when it was finished, I knew that it was finished. I called my mother and grandmother and said, “Stop sending me ornaments now. I had to buy an 8 foot tall tree to hold them all and I can’t carry the thing up the stairs by myself. I think we can call it good now.”
Such things are never, really a finished work though, are they? Every year since I left home, the job of decorating the family christmas tree has fallen to me. My husband now breaks the tree out of the box and sets it up for me so that I don’t injure myself on the tree. The kids help too. I hang the ornaments initially and then I have them go around and spread things out. Over the course of the month, the ornaments fall off and get broken and replaced, or get put back. The tree doesn’t really look right until some time around Christmas Day, when it will be at its most photogenic.
On Christmas Day, I really believe that Christmas trees have their own magic. There is an aura about them that is filled with light and laughter and most importantly the love that it took to carefully craft them into a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to see what my Christmas tree will become this year and how beautiful it’s going to be.
But, I never thought of it like that when I was eight. I used to think that those Christmas trees when I was little, that were so beautifully decorated, belonged only to my mother. She was the mistress of all of that beauty and joy and Santa simply added to that beauty and made it great and Dad and I were the spectators who stood back in awe of their amazing work.
Really though, it was never all about my mother. It was about our little family. I remember now, that I was the one who pointed out that garland in the store. I begged for us to have it on our tree. I painted and folded and cut and drew ornaments for that tree and my parents and grandparents and aunts all contributed a little piece of love to those trees.
I texted my mom today and told her that I remembered that garland and that I loved it. She texted me back with a smile and said, “It was pretty.” I told her I was going to try to find it again today and I looked. I called several different stores. No one had anything even close.
It’s all right though.
That garland is still alive inside my memories. I keep it tucked carefully inside a little box and let it come alive for me every year when I decorate my tree. For maybe twenty minutes, once a year, I am an eight year old little girl who is sitting happily with her mom and dad in a tiny little house, who never realized she was loved. The 36 year old woman that the little girl grew up to be, looks back and smiles, because she knows that she’s still loved, without a doubt.
The garland may be gone, but the love never is.