I am so unmotivated to take down my tree almost as much as I was to put it up. But, alas, it’s only two weeks later, and my festive trimmings must come down now to make way for a New Year.
As I was pulling the ornaments of my tree, a new memory would pop into my head. Every ornament, even the generic, bright colored, mercury glass balls, have a story connected to them. I have many friends and family members who have a “themed” tree, but not me. I am one for eclectic anyway. I don’t like matchy-matchy, but I am fond of family traditions and stories. When I moved into my first house, my mom and soon to be mother in law came over with these beautiful bows and matching ornaments and stuffed dolls that they created a Christmas masterpiece with. Though it was quite stunning and impressive, I didn’t feel a connection to it. Silly, I know. But, I have memories as a child opening the box of kids’ ornaments, the only ones my mom would allow us to put on the tree ourselves, and my brother, and later my sister, and I picking out each one and positioning it just right. We would say to each other, “Remember this one? We bought this at the school bazaar last year.” Rekindling the romance of the memories of our childhood. We were like 6 and 7, but we still did it when we were teenagers. And when I finally moved out on my own, my mom handed me the box and said, “Here. Take them, there all yours.” I was so proud of that box. I couldn’t wait to put all those plastic Charlie Brown and Mickey Mouse ornaments on my tree. The glass picture frames ones that held photos of me and my brother and sister, each from kindergarten and on (now that they all have houses of their own, I have since distributed to the rightful owner). The wooden clothespin reindeers, the candycane rudolphs…you know all the ones. I loved these because they told a story.
That first tree and I didn’t bond because it was too pretty for me to put my real ornaments on there. After that year, I vowed not to do a themed tree anymore. It wasn’t me. I needed to display my creativity through my story. My husband and I were married a few years later, and received a ton of wedding themed ornaments. I decided from that point forward, our tree would tell our family’s story. Every year for the last 10 years, I have bought 1-4 ornaments symbolizing our year. When we had our son, we were given, of course, Baby’s 1st Christmas. Same with our daughter and now with the twins. We have ornaments from when we would go to Disneyland, bells from the Polar Express, ornaments about Las Vegas, I even have an ornament from Florida where we learned I was pregnant with our daughter. Memories of France, my husband’s love of fishing, celebrating the new millenium, they are all there. A few years back, my close friends and family began a tradition of an ornament exchange. Each of those ornaments reminds me of the parties and the times spent with my friends and family over the holidays. My bigger kids have started bringing home ornaments they made from school…even though they are foam or paper, they hang proudly among the Christopher Radkos and Swarovski crystal snowflakes. We have fabric letters for each person in our family, and handblown glass animals and figurines that represent the kids: a giraffe for my son, ladybug for my daughter, cupcakes, ballerinas, snowbabies.
As I was taking each ornament off the tree, I was so pleased with what my Christmas tree has become and what it continues to evolve into. It’s our story. Yes, I complain that it takes so much work to put up and take down. It’s a lot of trouble that tree. And yet, I won’t let anyone but me hang the ornaments because I would be devastated if one story was broken. Just like my mom did for us, I have a big red box that keeps the kids’ ornaments they are allowed to hang. I remember feeling a bit irritated this year as my two older kids were so excited to put the ornaments up. Then I thought about the conversations they had while engaging in this family tradition. Talking about when my son was Harry Potter for Halloween, and my daughter’s French poodle ornament from her 2nd birthday. It sounded much like the chit chatting my siblings and I had when we were their age, decorating the tree. I got a little sentimental wondering if their enthusiasm will be the same next year, and when it will start to wane, and then one day, they’ll have a tree of their own to decorate. I’ll probably pass along a few of the ornaments that tell their story. I have a few Baby’s 1st Christmas ones I can spare. But the rest, those are are staying with me. I’m not giving those up. Those are my memories. My stories. They’ll have to create their own.