Yesterday morning I felt a bit under the weather with a mild cold. Rose was down and out as well. So Maggie and Nora went with our church friends to the Nature Conservancy on the other side of Fort Davis to cut a tree. They searched and searched and Maggie found the most lovely tree. So tall it bends at the top of our vaulted library. Maggie and Raymond set it up in the stand. While they did that, I scrounged outside to gather greens and pine cones and beautiful red berries of some sort to decorate our bare bones Advent candles. Maggie strung the lights and then the rest of us joined in on hanging the ornaments with Elf playing in the background.
The kids have done a great job decorating trees the last few years. And, truth be told, the whole process has been more than painful for me the last several years.
But, you know something? As I got pulled into the decorating, the act became meditative. I quieted myself and delved into the search for the perfect spot for each ornament. So high, some on the edge, a few great big ones hanging into open gaps.
Our organic, locally grown wild tree is gorgeous, and offers a generous canvas for our decorations. Some ornaments I remembered getting for my first Christmas in my first apartment. I picked them up in cute little stores in Eureka Springs, Arkansas on a visit to my grandparents' home. A little goose with a blue ribbon tied round his neck. A cute little ceramic teddy bear. A reindeer made out of old fashioned clothespins. I can feel the Novemberry air, and smell wood smoke and remember Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my Arkansas grandparents, the pretty red glasses and fancy plates and aunt, and cousin, and sisters and parents and Mamaw and Papaw, all brought to mind by those sweet little ornaments.
Other ornaments were a bit more scraggly, and every bit as precious. Made by little peoples' hands, over the last almost 21 years. I don't know what happened to many of them. Who knows where the old snowflakes are? I guess they will have to make more. But each little ornament brought to mind a special time. I remembered our big old historical home in Fort Worth, and all the renovating, and the lovely mantel, and friends and family recreating the Nativity story in the living room, and the fancy dinner, and the glow through the french doors. A warm glow. The glow of greens brightly burning from the candle that caught them on fire! That was a pretty dramatic Christmas Eve moment, and one that taught me much about how to decorate mantels with candles and greenery, and gave a vivid example to the kids about why we never leave a candle lit in an unattended room!
I tucked the giant angel made by Patrick into one open space in the tree. I love the smiling toothy face! Memories of New Jersey and snow and Christmas carols and little boys who were so little and now so tall!
I have pretty handmade ornaments made by my mom with fimo clay, they look just like old fashioned candy, the kind they handed to us on Christmas Eve at our tiny little Baptist church in Paden, Oklahoma, along with an orange. And a handful of nuts. I can feel the bitter cold and remember driving around, with socks on our hands for gloves, all riding in the back of an old pickup truck, going to visit the "shut-ins" to sing them Christmas carols.
As we put on the great big plastic, shiny red and purple ornaments, the ones that don't get broken by the climbing, crazy cats, I remembered the fun trip into the big town last year with Rose. We had to go somewhere in mid January. Target had all Christmas items for sale at 75% off! We had so much fun, getting those silly, not necessary things on that trip. Along with cute kitty and doggy Christmas neck ties, which are adorning our animals even now.
I have ornaments made of popsicle sticks and glue and polaroid photos. Some of that plastic, colorful foamy stuff well loved by Sunday schools of most every denomination, framing digitally printed out photos of kids. Some remaining shiny glass balls not nearly as many these years, thanks to the cats.
Probably the same stuff the rest of you have decorating your trees. Ours isn't very organized. It doesn't really match. There is absolutely no theme at all.
But you know something? As I teetered on a wobbly chair, and stretched and searched and hung little pieces of memory, I realized that for the first time in a long time, a very long time, I was truly delighting in the experience of Christmas preparation. Christmas used to be my favorite season. The last few years it has been a raw, painful time filled with memories that made me bleed. I didn't bleed at all yesterday.