That’s how I’ve come to look at our Christmas tree: our story tree. We finished decorating today, two days earlier than usual. When the children were smaller, the tree would suddenly appear on Christmas morning, trimmed and lit. Now that they are older, they ask to help me decorate and do it earlier so that they can have more time to behold it, before they leave for Christmas with their father.
Today, I basked in memories shared as each ornament was retrieved from its sleeping place. “Oh,” someone exclaimed, “we made this in the first grade!” I feigned tears and sobs as I held up the photo ornament of my teenager’s first Christmas. My firstborn. He was five months old. Yes, I dressed him in an outfit complete with a black vest and a tartan bow tie. He was my best Christmas present that year. He was Christmas. That is forever immortalized on our tree.
My younger son, who is always the one who asks when we will trim our tree, went for the little wooden figures given by a friend many years ago. He has started his own tradition of going for them first, hanging a few on the tree, and then sitting down to play with them, forgetting the main task. We always have to lure him back to the tree.
This year the boys tried to put each other’s photo ornaments on the back of the tree where no one would see them. The younger one called the older one mean even as he did the same, and the older one took it as a compliment. Gone are my days of decorating alone in total peace and quiet. This was new and it was all good.
As we recalled the story behind each ornament, we created new memories, new stories we laughed over. I wonder which ones we will remember when we lift our little treasures out again next year. They are not just ornaments anymore, but keepsakes that tell a little something about our past and are placeholders for more stories in our future.
There was a time when my artificial tree was shiny and full, lit from top to bottom, trunk to tip with electric bulbs. I had beautiful ornaments bought by the dozen. I had different sets, too, from the time I had a blue theme, to the time I found a source of very pretty clear ones with artistic swirls on them. I even had plastic grapes that captured the light in a very enchanting way. They were all wonderful, colorful, and random; beautiful yet empty. My trees spoke of sophistication and polish, but none of those ornaments could have told the stories of the simple ones I own today. They have been accumulated over time, some of them handmade by the boys, me, beloved aunts and teachers. Each one has a story, was given by someone who was in our life at one point or another, or was bought with real care and thought. On the eve of the 24th, when the boys are fast asleep, I will finally put the fresh roses on. This I still do myself and they will wake up to the heavenly scent of beeswax and roses–the smell of our Christmas.
Our tree tells the story of a life made simple, a life made real. I am always grateful for this tree and for being able to review the story of my family every year as we say goodbye to the old and usher in the new.