“O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Who will decorate your branches?”
By Jamie Miles
Once again, I’ve voyaged into the “I’ve become my mother” time zone. The object causing this consternation stands over 10 feet tall and is propped up outside my window in a tin pail of water.
My poor children. With Grinch-worthy grin, I answered their constant cries of “Mama, when are we going to decorate the tree?” with a flawless…“Not this evening, dear.” “Not this afternoon, sweetie.” All the while thinking…NEVER.
Publicly admit to such a curmudgeonly spirit? I’ll deny it till my dying day; but good grief, all those decorations. Childhood ornaments our mothers purged from their empty-nester trees. The children’s keepsake ornaments and their handmade holiday wares. And the occasional decoration that was too cute to pass up -- like Santa in swim trunks riding a sea turtle. Box upon box upon box!
I visited a house with a special door made to open and roll away their Christmas tree year after year. Not the same as shuffling hunchbacked through dim attic light sorting through boxes marked “baby clothes” slashed through in black with “Easter” slashed through again with “Christmas.”
There’s no one to blame but myself. My husband would be content with a nice six-foot tree with a nice six-foot tree price. But standing there between the pines at Jack’s Creek, I couldn’t bear the thought of just six feet standing in our hall.
So like my mother and her mother before, I will press onward up into the attic. First for the children and then somewhere in the maddening process things will start to change. For as much work as hoisting up that tree demands, once she rests there shining bright; there is nothing like it.
Unlike anything in my world, the Christmas tree stands a monument. From each bough hangs a memory bringing to mind people, places, bittersweet reflections and joys. Like the ornaments our dear neighbor Audrey Hutcheson gave us on one of her last Christmases – precious objects that graced her family’s tree. The little crèche I made in Brownies out of a tuna fish can spray painted gold holding a teensy mother, kneeling father and babe. A note to Santa that our teenager secretly tucked on the tree one Christmas Eve long ago written with uncontainable, practically illegible six-year-old excitement.
There in the quiet darkness beholding her splendor, the mismarked boxes, crumbling napkin wrappers and head bumps on the rafters -- all fade away. Looking up at that glorious patchwork of life, a smile a mile wide erupts on the inside. You know it’s all been worth it.
So put on some cider, spin some Dean Martin and whisper a prayer of thanks for all those boxes. In that cardboard lies precious treasure, if only we open our eyes to see it.