Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tip Junkie's Christmas Tree Contest

 After sifting through eighteen, yes, that's right, 18 boxes of Christmas decorations, I have managed to find all the gems and jewels for our Christmas tree. I have pulled a few things here and there to carefully place around our cottage, but have decided that too much clutter, even Christmas clutter, is not a good thing while much of my home is still in packing boxes. There are times in my life when I know that physical clutter and emotional clutter go hand in hand. I was skeptical and tired going into the raising of the tree, but do admit that every time I look at the tree I smile.

I am a bit controlling about the decorating of the tree. There is a right way to do this, as my family knows, and the right way is Mom's way. Some would say this if Freudian - it is my mother's fault. I am inclined to agree. I am slightly ashamed of this and I am sure that my family wishes there was a twelve step program for me, but...

I love snow, snowflakes, smowmen and anything related. I love how snow sparkles and this glistening inspires my Christmas tree.

I have wonderfully fond, and quite funny, memories of cutting down trees for Christmas. We did this for most of my childhood. There was always the promise of not getting a tree as large as last year's and Dad having to cut off six inches anyway. As an adult, I worry about dry trees, so we have an artificial, pre-lit tree.

Once the tree is set up and the lights checked, fixed (Yes, the Light Keeper works - as seen on TV!), I hang the garland as evenly as I can all the while knowing that it is the uneven and imperfect that makes this tree special. A few years ago, I found this wonderful garland at Target. There were only three packages left on the shelf and I grabbed them all positive that I would be able to find more. I never did and have tried to stretch the look of not enough garland every year since. I have spent the last few Christmas seasons scouring the seasonal aisles for more. Logically, I knew that it was not likely that this garland would be available again. I was wrong. Sometimes I can like being wrong. Last week, I stopped on my way through Branson, MO for some wrapping paper and found two more packages of this glittery bejeweled garland. I could hardly believe my luck! I grabbed it up like this year's hot new toy. I love it. It glistens and sparkles and reflects the little white lights all over the room. It looks just like sparkling ice.

Next to go on the tree are the snowflakes I purchased from Silver Dollar City's Christmas shop when I moved to the Ozarks fifteen years ago. There are about two dozen and I arrange them as evenly as possibly to carry on the winter theme of my tree without making it look too department storish. The garland and the snowflakes are plastic, but sparkle like glass and ice. It is beautiful. Next, I release some of my control and we set about hanging the hundreds of ornaments.

We each get a new ornament of our own every Christmas. Following my mother's tradition, when the children are grown, and leave home, their ornaments serve as a starter kit for their own trees. There are ornaments that make music. Ornaments commemorating travel and fun.

There are ornaments handcrafted from three generations - my school teacher bell ornament, my grandmother's crocheted wreath yellowing with age, and many like the one below that my mother made. This little mouse and his house is sweet and dear to my heart. One of my favorites.

There are others from my childhood that prompt me to tell stories and share, with my children, the fun of my childhood holidays. My father always played with our toys while he played Santa. One year, when LiteBrites were all the rage, we awoke to ours, out of the box, a shiny, colorful clown welcoming us to our presents. He always set up a train under the tree that wound round and round swishing and steaming on its track to nowhere. It is still there every year. I know, because I check.

Each year, at least one of my packages has a snowperson ornament decorating it. Some are primitive, some quite glitzy, some have jobs, some are just plain cute. As we decorated the tree last night, I realized I probably have enough to make a snowperson tree. I wouldn't want the other ornaments to miss them, so until the tree falls over for too many ornaments, which seems a viable risk at this point, the snow population continues to grow. There are teacher ornaments, ballerinas, musical instruments, dolls or all sorts, laptops, books, a mini grand piano and an American flag.

There is a small red bird in a nest. This is a tradition for us. When cutting down real trees, as a child, it was said to be good luck to find an empty nest in your tree. As we do not want to displace any mother birds, or her children, this Spring, we have a man made nest with a feathery bird that peeks out and keeps watch over the season. We are truly lucky.

Gently, we push the tree back into its corner. Garland and snowflakes glisten and ornaments settle into their home. It is quite a sight. There is no pop and wow theme, but this theme, a theme of glittering stories brings about a long study of the tree by those who visit. The stories are told, and told again, as each holiday comes and goes. These stories are not forgotten, but renewed and relived as I carefully unwrap and hang each Christmas goody. Two small crocheted angels guard these stories.

My mother was here last night and reminded me that her tree is not yet finished. You see, the last thing our family puts on the tree is the angel. It is my job to place her just right at the top of the tree. I will do this on Christmas Eve. Placing the angel on the tree, over the years, holds special memories for me. Each year my father helps me carefully place the angel. He has lifted me up, placed me on his shoulders, held the ladder steady, placed a hand at my waist while I stood on a chair, and now sits in his chair confident that I can do this myself. I hope I don't fall. Our angel is a snow angel befitting the theme. She is fairly new, but I think she is happy with her charge.

The final step is the tree skirt. I have never found one that I love and have never taken the time to make one. I have repurposed a once very beautiful quilt as a tree skirt. I love the red and yellowed white, the oldness of it all, and the wonder of what its story may carry year to year. It is in much worse shape than appears after I tuck in all the frayed and ill repaired edges. It has grown on me over the years and I have long since given up on finding a tree skirt.
So, here it is. Our tree. It glitters even in the day.

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