We put up our tree yesterday, as we always do on the day after Thanksgiving. It is starting to lose some of its very-fake branches. We could get a new tree, but I’m too cheap to spend a bunch of money on something we only use for a month out of the year and totally cover up anyway. We bought the one we do have in the off-season at a going-out-of-business sale right before we moved into this house 15 years ago. We inherited my mother-in-law’s ornaments, mostly a ton of hardy red plastic balls. I know they’re hardy because she had them before she got married. They’re probably about 50 years old and I really like them. (Whoever invented glass Christmas balls, by the way, didn’t have pets or small children.) That Christmas I bought a bunch of musical-themed gold-colored ornaments, golden garland, and had a beautiful, music-themed red and gold tree. It was very pretty, and it reflected my elegant musical self very well.
I remember setting up the tree that first year while my oldest, then 3 months old, spent some quality time around the corner at his grandparents visiting his aunt and cousin who were in town for Thanksgiving. I played Christmas music and merrily dreamed about Christmases to come filled with children, laughter, and beautiful Christmas trees.
I then invented and implemented a tradition that I love. Every year for Christmas I give each child (we have 5 kids now, by the way) a new ornament that is their very own. I write their initials on the back of it and the year it was given. They are not for me, but for them, so they have ranged from fake gingerbread houses and cupcakes to lacy pretty dolls. No musical instruments have been given. Whimsy trumps elegance in the decision-making every time, and it shows.
So gradually, our tree has changed from golden musical instruments and musical symbols to teddy bears and sock monkeys. This process has greatly picked up speed as we have gone from 1 child to 5. I figure we have added 56 new ornaments up to this point.
I’ve made other changes too. We’ve changed from gold fuzzy garland to wide wired ribbon (which I also found on an after-Christmas sale). We have traded the elegant white bulbs that went out every couple of years to colored LED lights. And there are still a few musical instruments here and there and plenty of red balls. One day, when the kids move out on their own, I’ll give them each their personal ornaments and I’ll be left with my elegant tree again. Our Christmas tree reflects who we are as a family: economical, jam-packed full, reflecting the past, and willing to change with time. One day the kids will be gone and I’ll have my elegant tree back. Then I’ll start giving new ornaments every Christmas to the grandkids so their parents’ trees can become the joy mine has become. But they better not count on it being elegant, because life with kids isn’t elegant. Surprising, exciting, and fun, yes, but not elegant.