December 7, 2017

one little christmas tree

My parents like to tell a story about my first Christmas. Not my first, first Christmas, when I was six months old. But the one when I was very grown-up and 18 months old. I was old enough to appreciate some of the festivities around me, but not quite able to understand it.

The story goes like this: After putting me down for a nap, my parents took advantage of the break to put up our Christmas tree, lights and other decorations. When I woke up, still a little sleepy (as you do), I stumbled out of my bedroom and into the living room. And I froze. My eyes grew big and round, my jaw fell open. Slowly I turned around in a circle to take in the magic.

It's thirty years later. Instead of being one and a half, I'm thirty-one and a half. Instead of having parents who handle the decorating like elves, it falls to me to make my house merry. But all this time later, I still find Christmas trees every bit as magical as I did then.

This year's tree went up late the evening of Thanksgiving (and early the morning after). It happened the way these things often go. With Thanksgiving dinner behind me and most of my guests gone home (or in my visiting parents' case, in bed), I figured I'd get a head start on the season and pull out the boxes. Once the boxes were out, I couldn't resist breaking out the new garland, ribbons, and lights I found out Michael's to decorate my bookshelves. Then the shelves wanted the nutcracker and ribbons and poinsettias. It overflowed to the sofa table and the walls and the kitchen. Pretty soon, I figured I might as well put up the tree. Then the lights.

By then it was well after midnight. The tree was up, the lights were on, the rest of my home was decorated. I figured there wasn't any use in waiting till the morning. So I began the trimming.

I started with my favorite ornament, the pewter ballet slippers my mom bought to commemorate the first time I went to The Nutcracker, which became a winter favorite and obsession for the next few years.

Then I added the first set of ornaments I bought when I was eighteen years old and assembling my first set of holiday decorations and feeling all kinds of grown-up.

And I added the shabby chic decorations my co-workers and I made before shabby chic became a movement. (Not to get all hipster-like and say we did it before it was cool, but we totally did.)

I was noticing a color scheme--unintentional, but still there. Everything was red and silver and gold. Even the burlap had a gold feel. With so much leftover ribbon (and always intrigued by the ribbon-covered trees in Hallmark movies) I threw some on and curled the tendrils. I let off the other colorful ornaments, deciding my red and silver and gold tree was simple and perfect the way it was.

This Christmas tree has been with me for years, through many apartments and houses. And each year it looks a little different, but it's always perfect, just like every tree seems to me. The lights. The sparkle. The memories of old ornaments. The excitement of the new. There's just something so special about a Christmas tree. It fills my heart with joy.

Do trees fill you with the spirit of the season, too? Do you decorate it the same every year or shake things up?

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