I'm not one of those people who thinks the day after Thanksgiving is the mandatory time for pulling out the Christmas decor, or who hums carols to herself all day long, or whatever. I have been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer more or less constantly since last Christmas, but that's Clare's fault. I was totally horrified one night, nearly a full week before Halloween, to see that the local Duane Reade already had a Christmas display up in one of its shop windows.
But I do love Christmas trees.
Our tree is a pathetic $16 Wal-Mart fake we bought the first year we were married, nothing to get real happy about. I hope next year we will finally be settled enough and have space enough (wherever we are) to upgrade to some kind of decent Christmas tree. I am totally envious of people who can buy one of the gorgeous, sweet-smelling real trees they're selling just outside the seminary. (I am going to console myself by purchasing a $10 wreath.)
But I love our Christmas tree anyway, even though it is a dreadful fake that sheds plastic bits, has a broken stand, is consequently precariously wobbly, and was purchased long ago from The Evil Empire. Because our Christmas tree, like the very best Christmas trees anywhere, is totally ours.
We have three "first Christmas together" ornaments (this is what happens when you get married a week before Christmas). These are always the first things on the tree. Our basic glass ornament sets--in gold and white--are from the tree we decorated for our wedding reception, and these are the next things on the tree. Then the antique ornaments from Brent's mom, Malda, from her own treasured store of beautiful things gathered from estate sales over the years: Brent's favorite, a little elf that sits in a nook (or a cranny, depending on my mood), an antique glass ornament, a little rocking horse, assorted Santas, and my favorites, a pair of pink glass clip-on birds that perch jauntily on the ends of branches. A picture frame ornament, from my Aunt Nancy, with Clare's Christmas picture from last year in it. A set of Charlie Brown Christmas ornaments I bought last year while shopping with Ally. Some dainty woven ornaments that Sarah & Andrew gave away as party favors at last year's Christmas bash. A set of little Chinese dolls from keyrings that I don't remember acquiring in China that make much better tree ornaments than keyrings...
Underneath our tree this year is a quite respectable collection of Christmas storybooks (especially considering Clare doesn't read yet), all gifts from people who love her. And a beautiful white plush teddy bear in red scarf and stocking cap, her "Mimi bear." But no presents. And there won't be many, this year. But--except for the fact that my eye is of course trained to behold Christmas trees without presents underneath as "naked"--that's not the point of Christmas trees. It's all about the history--what each little item says about who we are, and where we've been, and who we love and who loves us.
I love that on my parents' Christmas tree there are still, every year, things from our childhood. The ceramic mouse ornament that I cast and painted in the 6th grade. The drummer boy drum Ally made in 4th grade (that has Denessa's name on it too from when she tried to steal it). The preschool picture of Emily glowering at the camera like she wanted to shoot the photographer in the butt with a BB gun. I can't wait till Clare gets old enough to start making hideous additions to our Christmas tree history every year. I want the construction paper, the scribbles, the glitter, the smeary glue, the sullen I-won't-smile-for-you-right-now pics, all of it. And I especially want an elf head with a scary crooked grin and a paper clip hook stuck in him sideways, made out of dried playdough.