There is nothing quite as magical as Christmas to a child. I remember how excited we used to get when my mother brought out our Christmas decorations and put up our tree. In addition to the tree, she used to hang paper streamers across the ceiling and put holly sprigs in the picture frames. I still remember the excitement I felt when I helped hang the ornaments on the tree and saw the orange, green and purple streamers covering the ceiling. Now when we remember our old tree we laugh about it. It was a tiny silver tree that sat on top of a table. It was about 3 feet high and had about 4 sets of branches made of silver tinsel. But when we were little, it seemed magical.
As we got older and saw some other options for Christmas trees, we started to want a different one, but my mother would not budge and each year she faithfully brought out the old one. I still remember one friend who came to our house and stood at the door to the living room. “Is that your Christmas tree?” she asked, pointing incredulously at the small silver object on the sideboard and then collapsing with laughter to the floor.
I got my first real Christmas tree when I was an adult. It was a pine, and I still remember how amazing it smelled in my apartment. I got a set of multicolored lights and a few ornaments and I thought it was perfect. For years I would not consider anything but a real tree. I decorated them all carefully and eventually decided that I liked still white lights best. One year we had a tree decorated only with red bows, another year we had rich gold and purple ribbons, but mostly we had our motley assortment of ornaments gathered over the years. Our trees were never perfect, but they always looked nice. Then I had children.
Once the children started decorating, any planned decoration strategy had to be abandoned. They started making their own ornaments in various sizes (usually ranging from L to XXXL), and placing them prominently at the front of the tree, they bought their own ornaments (usually enormous ones intended for outdoor tree displays) and placed them prominently on the same branch as their large home-made decoration. And they decorated so that all the ornaments were gathered at the front, and usually on the bottom part of the tree.
We also have a lot of decorations that my husband made as a child, so two generations of children have decorated our tree. Add to those various home-made items some randomly collected nicer ornaments, a motley assortment of colored balls that have survived the attention of the cats, and a few of the leftover red bows from a few years ago and you get a picture of what our tree looks like. It is not perfect in the traditional sense, but it looks good to me.
The other thing that has happened to my Christmas decorations over the years is that pieces of them have worn out or got lost. We have a glass nativity scene from which Mary and Joseph have mysteriously gone missing (someone having taken them away to play with!). Now only the baby Jesus and the wise men are left. At least the baby is still there. Lying in a glass manger amidst an incomplete nativity scene in the shadow of our eclectic tree he reminds me of the message of Christmas—that my life does not have to be perfect, because his was.