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Lessons from My Christmas Tree

November 27, 2009

I decorated my Christmas tree tonight. It is always a sentimental experience for me, unwrapping old ornaments and finding mementos of years past. To add another layer of sentiment, this is the first time I have ever decorated my tree alone. I just spent an hour carefully unwrapping at least one ornament from each year of my life; it was strange not to turn to my mom or sister and exclaim, “Remember this?” Instead, I quietly listened to Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas album, drank a glass of red wine, and littered the floor with layers of tissue paper.

This is how you decorate a tree that is several feet taller than you.

I love the velvety feeling of really old tissue paper that has been wrapped and re-wrapped around ornaments over and over again. As I rub the worn fibers between my fingers, I listen carefully to the stories each ornament is telling me.

This dolphin in a Santa hat was from the year we went to Florida and I was going through a major dolphin phase.

This snowman was from the year that my mother bought practically everything from a craft fair and I got really weird-looking, fake Barbie clothes for Christmas that I pretended to like. (Ken’s shirt had multi-colored sailboats on it. Even for the ’90s, it was pretty bad.)

This beret was from the year we went to Paris and my mother hand-stitched “Paris 2001” onto it so I wouldn’t forget.

The gingerbread girl holding a tray of cookies is my favorite; I got it the year I was four years old and the little cookie sheet always makes me hungry.

This bunny looks like Peter Rabbit and was from my first Christmas.

This cheerleading bear was from my senior year in high school and was a gift from the kids I babysat. The little girl and I would jump on their trampoline and I would teach her “cheerleading kicks.” I heard today that she’s in high school and has pom-pons of her own now. I suddenly felt very old.

The reindeer ornament makes me think of the years when I would construct a sleigh out of a shoebox and attach my stuffed reindeer to it, then hang it from the ceiling in my room with string. I would lace multi-colored lights everywhere and lay in bed, covers pulled to my chin, watching the lights blink on and off late into the night.

The finished product!

It’s like reliving my whole life, lifting each year, one by one, out of a dusty tin canister. I am able to gaze my tree and remember trips I took, phases I went through and feelings that are only evoked by the holidays. I wish so desperately to be a child again while enjoying making small traditions of my own as an adult. I’ve often wondered why Christmas feels different each year than it did in the past. Has it become more commercial? Have I become more commercial? Was it because I didn’t hang up that Advent calendar that my grandma gave me when we moved to Michigan? Was it because we don’t make that certain kind of cookie anymore?

Probably not. I don’t believe the season has changed all that much. I am just seeing it through different eyes. The past is gilded with idealism and distance; maybe in reality it was never as magical as I remembered it. And that’s okay.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2009 9:58 pm

    So cute! Love your decorations!

  2. Caroline permalink*
    November 27, 2009 10:39 pm

    @ Jessica!

    Thanks! Nothing lifts the spirits like Christmas lights. 🙂

  3. Grandma Carr permalink
    December 1, 2009 10:18 am

    Sweet Caroline…..Your tree looks about the same size as mine. I find that with the changes in our lives year by year, it re-forms how Christmas feels to me. When your Mom and siblings were young, shopping and meal planning occupied too much of my time…too little remembering Jesus’ coming in human form. Later years, I was busy co-ordinating when and where our few days near December 25th would be spent. Then it became adjustment to sharing the growing family with in laws on all sides. The downsizing for me came…twice…and now I can see the blessing that comes when it’s just Jesus and me. How sweet to celebrate His coming every morning in my warm, quiet kitchen….just the two of us. Everyday is Christmas! IICorinthians 9:15. Love you always…Grandma

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