Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Messy Beauty


All those years my mother gathered snacks for the big day, the Christmas tree decorating day.  Picking out the tree, eh, that was alright, but oh decorating.  Now that was something to look forward to.  Out came  the perfectly salty homemade chex mix, the satsuma oranges, the dips, the crackers, the summer sausage and special cheeses and lunch meats, and the boxes of ornaments.  And all six of us gathered around, and I can remember even when my youngest brothers were the ages of my own children now and we laughed and made fun of the weird ornaments and told stories and talked about our favorite ornament while Johnny Mathis crooned in the background.  

The first Christmas after Jesse and I married, we were both students and we were broke.  How to afford a Christmas tree?  Surely we needed one, I thought, so we scraped together money- was it out of the big jar of change Jesse had collected over the years?  We made our way to Walmart where we had just enough for the cheapest tree we could find.  And we took that tree home and we hung our ornaments on it and I sat back and looked at it and 

-oh how I cried. 

They were homesick tears and tears over the Ugly-Beautiful of change.  My parents home was (and is) a beautiful haven and in comparison our shabby little ground-floor apartment and our spindly sparse tree was so Unlovely, I thought.  My dear young husband, he looked at me baffled.  After all, hadn't we found a way against all odds to have our first tree?   I'm sure saw the glass half-full as he usually does, a quality that I now strive to emulate but one that used to drive me crazy until I learned that actually the glass isn't half-full but is is overflowing with blessings.

Now in our cozy little quirky home, I smile over those early days and they help me remember that the things that trouble me now are just as fleeting as that first Christmas tree.  

So we bundle the kids in heavy coats although it's all the way up to 43 degrees today, and we go hunting for a tree and I am thankful I dressed them for a possible picture opportunity because, surprise, Santa has come to visit the quiet nursery and we are the only shoppers and no lines.  Three little girls shyly edge closer and are won over by the offer of a candy cane and smile pretty for a picture. Then we tie a tree to the car and we put this tall green plant in our living room and it is beautiful.

And now it is my turn to spend the afternoon in the kitchen preparing special treats for the evening and we feast on satsuma oranges and homemade salty Chex mix and crackers and cheese and meat and the children's eyes shine.

My mother and I Skype just before we commence with munching and hanging and I mean to tell her but forget in the bustle of the children and breakables and the dishes of goodies.  I mean to tell her thank you.  Thank you for showing me the importance of special memories to children and adults alike.  Thank you for smiling (and at times, I'm sure, crying) through the hard years, like that year the tree fell over and fell over and finally had to be tied to the wall, or that Christmas we were all sick with the stomach flu on Christmas Day.  Thank you for teaching me that it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful and that the chaos is part of the messy beauty of life together.  I'm doing my best to pass that legacy to the next generation.


  1. I remember my first tree after marriage and it was sad. My mom started making one ornament a year for me, then for my children until she died. My sister and I continued the tradition of making or buying ONE ornament for our nieces and nephews. This Christmas my daughter was putting up a tree at her apartment and I handed over the collection. Along with some heirloom ornaments I was willing to part with. I also set aside my son's collection for when he does his tree one day.

    How nifty that you had the girls ready for a impromptu photo shoot :) NICE!!

  2. Your girls are so adorable! It's always a joy to visit your blog and look at your pictures. Lovely decorations! I love your christmas tree!
    Hope you all stay warm and healthy. And happy knitting!