I had the “privilege” of decorating our Christmas tree this year without the help of any children. Even as an adult, one daughter always participated in the fun of putting up the family tree until she had a home of her own. By that time, I had grandchildren nearby that were aching for a chance to help grandma. So, you can see, decorating a tree all by myself–well, I haven’t done that for close to 40 years. I put on Christmas music and started the monotonous unwrapping of ornaments and finding just the right spot for it on the tree. Without the enthusiastic bustle of children, I was able to let my thoughts flow wherever they wanted to for a few hours without interruption. So it was a privilege, but it was also a trade-off: quiet, contemplative, orderly, efficient as opposed to enthusiasm, excitement, laughter, and a broken ornament or two.
I smiled as I pulled out so many ornaments and decorations given to us by my mother-in-law who died last January. This will be our first Christmas without her–a season she enjoyed to the hilt.
I found an empty box for a long-lost “baby’s first Christmas” ornament. I couldn’t afford to buy one for each new baby before Christmas, but faithfully went right after Christmas to get them at a discount. Except for one year when I waited too long and there weren’t any left. Every Christmas thereafter I’ve had to convince my daughter that I really do love her as much as the other kids.
I made a pile of the ornaments that I just don’t like and will donate them to the Bibles for Missions store today. I’ve tried to do this many times, but someone always sneaks them on the tree. By the time I get to clean-up and put away after Christmas, I just want to get it done and don’t do the sorting. Now, all I’ll have to do is find an appropriate answer for the questions. “Where’s that Santa ornaments that you pinch the cheeks and find a Hershey’s kiss?” “Where’s that angel with the broken wing?” “But I really liked the shiny glittery one. Why isn’t it on the top?”
I remembered decorating our Charlie Brown trees as a child, bought a day or two before Christmas when selection was few and prices were low. I remembered helping my mother color a drawing of the three magi on oiled paper which my father framed in wood. We put the large mural on our front lawn with a floodlight behind it–a poor man’s stained glass.
Last year I bought an artificial tree–to the disappointment of my children. We had always purchased a tree the day after Thanksgiving (I adopted many of my mother-in-law’s practices). Every year I would say, “We are getting a smaller tree this year.” Every year we came back with a monster tree that everyone had agreed to on at the lot. We’d set it up and decorate it, and if time and tempers allowed, added lights to the outside of the house. Then from that day until Christmas, we would turn out all the lights except for those on the tree and snuggle on the couch for a while before the kids went to bed. Sometimes I read to them. Sometimes we just snuggled. And sometimes I feel asleep and they laughed at me.
I couldn’t leave the kids out entirely. I set up a snowman corner with all touchable items. And the table in the playroom got it’s own little tree with ornaments set aside for them to decorate it–over and over if they want to. There’s also some “touchable” nativity scenes scattered around the house that they mix and match, and sometimes use as super heroes–but who am I to argue? Isn’t Jesus the best super hero of them all?