For children, Christmas trees are magical things. And, although each family has their own traditions and styles, kids always think their family’s tree is the most beautiful of all.
When I was growing up, my Norwegian dad was quite sure we needed more trees in our yard. So, we always got a living tree. And, they were never the normal varieties our friends had. Instead, we got whatever strange tree struck my parents’ fancy. At a time when the neighbors all had perfectly symmetrical trees that were flocked white and hung with matching ornaments, we had trees with pinecones that dripped sap, or ones that had ridiculously long needles, or trees that had twisted themselves into odd shapes.
And, although part of me craved the serene feeling I got from my friends’ perfect trees, our oddities better matched my nutty family.
After my parents split up, my mom had to return to work. So, my sister and I decided to surprise her by putting up the tree that year. We bought a tree that had a ridiculously wide trunk. It was way too big to fit into the tiny holder we had. We hacked at it for hours with a dull, rusty saw we found in the shed until it sort of fit crookedly into the tree stand. And, we decorated it just like that. Our exhausted mom acted like it was the best tree she’d ever seen.
And that crooked tree with the trunk hacked in half perfectly expressed our life at the time.
When my husband and I were newlyweds, we had no extra money. We bought the cheapest tree we could find. I was working retail at the time and I was allowed to bring the broken ornaments home. So, our tree sported headless angels, camels with two legs, and Santas missing an arm or two. Unlike the tree in the Charlie Brown Christmas show, love did not magically transform our tree into a thing of beauty. It just remained a very strange looking misfit tree.
But, our friends thought it was hilarious and came by just to add their own touches to it. Soon, paper clip garlands and folded gum wrappers (along with other weird household items) joined the broken ornaments. And, that sad looking tree gathered people together better than any beautiful tree ever could have.
As our family grew, so too did our ornament collection. My mom-in-law crocheted delicate snowflakes in every size and shape. I began working at Hallmark and brought home unbroken treasures. And, the kids made adorable ornaments at school.
Still, the past always affects the present. So, although I could have a normal tree now if I wanted to, I’m still drawn to the odd misfits that shaped my past. And so, I hang my glass flying pigs, my hippo ballerina and Shaq dunking a basketball. And, this year, my grandson was adamant that my tree was sadly lacking in vehicular representation. So, we tied thread around his Hot Wheels and hung them on the tree too. He was thrilled.
And, once again, my tree represents my life. It’s messy and chaotic and certainly not picture-perfect. But, it is chock full of weird characters and lots of love.
Tell us about your family’s Christmas tree! What makes it uniquely yours?