According to my Facebook feed, many of you had your trees up and decorated weeks ago. My two sisters had their homes beautifully decorated shortly after Thanksgiving. Their Christmas cards were mailed by December 1.
My tree isn’t up, and I'm skipping the Christmas card yet again this year. The closer I get to 50, the more of a rebel I become.
Actually, because our oldest son, Tom, is a December baby, we make a conscious effort not to decorate until after his birthday has come and gone.
Well, his birthday has come and gone, so we have to get to it.
Each year we buy a real tree. Ideally all five of us go and pick the tree out, but lately it's been my husband and one or two of the kids.
This year there is not a sniffle to be heard, so it’s looking good that it will be all five of us making the holiday pilgrimage. But you never know.
The one caveat we have in picking out our Christmas tree is that it must not be any taller than Dad. Joe is 6 feet, and this gives the kids a pretty good assortment to choose from, and it gives me a great laugh each year as they go through the lot and try to measure it against their dad.
Once the tree is safely tied to the roof of our minivan, it's back home to the annual that's-not-the-way-you-put-up-a-tree argument Joe and I have each year. We could skip this part of the tradition, but after 20 years of marriage I’ve grown so fond of wanting to pull out every strand of my hair, I think I would really miss it.
When the tree is finally up and in its stand, we all kind of look at it waiting for some elf to put the lights on it. While I was growing up, this job always fell to my father who would use language I only heard once a year when he was working on the lights.
More times than not, it's all five foot three of me who has the job of putting on the lights. I do this because I honestly feel if I left this to Joe, we would not have the tree decorated before Memorial Day.
This is when part two of the traditional argument occurs. I may add the my-sisters-already-have-their-trees-up-and-their-husbands-did-most-of-it encore argument, but that's not mandatory for me to get the most out of the holiday.
By this time Joe and I are laughing so hard that although I'm very frustrated I secretly am glad I married someone who can make me laugh. It would be nice if he would take just a little interest in the tree one year, but I dont' want to get ahead of myself and ruin the fun of the annual argument.
Once the lights are on the tree, it's time to hang the ornaments.
I love this part.
In a perfect world, I would have my children putting up the ornaments, while I was stringing popcorn and singing Christmas carols, but I have to admit, I'm a bit territorial about the tree.
I'm not a person that is really big on possessions. I love having pretty things, but I'm not one to collect things anymore.
I was also raised by a mother that had some lovely things but never got upset if something was broken by one of my sisters or me. She may not have been thrilled, but she never made us feel bad. She would always say people are more important than things, and I grew up feeling the same way.
That is, unless it's a Christmas ornament.
All of a sudden my nice-mommy persona goes out the window, and I become possessed.
I love my ornaments. They have been collected through the years and represent everything from the time I worked in an office, to when I got married, had each of my children, and watched them grow.
The big glass school bus the year Tom was obsessed with counting buses, or the Paddignton Bear ornament that he still loves to see on the tree each year. The glass carousel giraffe my mother brought back for Lizzy from Nantucket the year she was planning my sister's wedding. Or the teddy bear ornament found for Peter to represent his dear stuffed bear Fuzzy.
Unlike my mom, who would think nothing of letting my sisters and I hang her beautiful hand-blown glass ornaments, I get twitchy just thinking of letting my children, who I love more than words can say, get their little hands on my precious collection.
I have relished my solitary time tying my ornaments and thinking of the people and times they represent.
But, for the last few years the kids have really wanted to be involved. I was starting to feel like Scrooge keeping them from something they so clearly wanted to be a part of.
Last year, it was a treat watching Tom help Peter and Lizzy pick out decorations and place them on the branches; hearing Lizzy giggle as she plays with the ballerina and Barbie ornaments she loves; helping Peter pick out just the right spot to put the train ornament I bought the year I was pregnant with him; and answering questions about who gave us what or where we were living when we received it. Every part of it turned out to be much more valuable than any ornament with an exclusive name on it.
I may cringe every now and then, but in the end, my mother was right, they are just things. The experience and memory of my kids helping me is more than worth a few broken ornaments.
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