My family lived in a small town where there wasn’t much to do, so when the lights went on again at the end of World War II, riding with my family crowded around me to see the lights that first Christmas Eve was a very special treat.
One tree, in a wealthy home, shone from a big bay window, a glorious vision in gleaming blue and silver, its lights winking blue on the white snow outside. Daddy stopped the car so we could study it. Mother said a professional must have decorated it because each ball had been placed in perfect symmetry, every foil icicle hung with exact precision equidistant from the other. A silvery glass spire crowned the top.
We had never had—would never have—such a breathtakingly beautiful tree. But I will when I’m grown.
I grew up, married, we had children. I’d still planned to have the tree of my dreams, but one year, our preschooler produced a white Styrofoam cup with a few red sequins glued on it and a green wire stuck up through the bottom.
“It’s a bell,” she said, obviously pleased with her work as I helped her hang it on a branch.
From kindergarten, our second born brought home a lopsided paper angel for the top. My heart ached as I removed the red and gold glass spire inherited from my late mother for the angel, but his eyes shone with delight.
Our second grader handed me a brown construction paper reindeer made in school. Brads allowed its legs to move. It was almost as large as our live tree, and such trees are never perfect. There is always a hole. Dad covered this one with the reindeer.
The kids decorated the tree as they grew a little older and crafted new items to go on it. One evening, I cringed as I watched them hang the ornaments haphazardly, and then throw the foil icicles on. At least they’d learned to cover the hole with that ugly brown reindeer.
Enough of this, I finally said to myself. Next year, I will decorate.
At that moment, I watched them step back, and our daughter cried, “It’s our best tree yet!”
Dismay spread through me as I realized what I hadn’t understood—to me it might be a hodgepodge, but to them it was their creation and satisfyingly beautiful.
Our kids grew up, married and have their own children now. On our tree the ornaments they crafted that were uniquely theirs, mingle with those made by their children and those from stores. Every family member’s interests are represented there—sports, music, art, writing and pets.
My husband and I switched to an artificial tree not long ago, and, would you believe it has a hole? Oh, yes. We, of course, have the perfect solution for it.
It’s no longer important that I’ll never have the tree of my dreams. We have the gloriously creative and wonderfully perfect tree for our family.
May your holidays be touched with memories that bring you joy,