We have been the proud owners of the same artificial Christmas tree for more than ten years. We bought it way back when we lived in Norwalk, Connecticut at an after-Christmas sale at one of those old fashioned hardward stores that doesn't exist anymore. Pre-lit. Eight feet tall. Or is it seven? It's taller than I am, but short enough that I can reach up and put the star on top.
Which is exactly what I did this past Saturday morning after I'd assembled and decorated the tree - alone again: I reached up - proudly, contentedly, happily, joyfully - and placed our golden- sparkly star on top of our tree. If I weren't afraid to be either electrocuted or poked in the eye by one of the indestructible plastic pine needles, I would have hugged this gorgeous tree of ours.
When I began to assemble the tree on Saturday morning, I confess that I was pissed off to be putting the tree up alone again. It seems that most years, it is a chore I end up doing all by my lonesome. But somewhere between putting the branches into the stem and plugging one layer into the other, I remembered: "This is not a chore at all. I love doing this, and like many other things in my life, I like doing it for myself and by myself."
As I assembled it with my hands, I also put it together in my mind and heart. I reassembled many memories of Christmases past, of the countless hours I sit on the big red couch, journal in hand (there's my huge journal on the right side of the table back in 2007), music on the boom box, and dream big dreams of Christmas. I fill page after page with my musings. I listen to the same cds over and over - Sarah McLachlan, Rob Mathes, Andrea Bocelli, Sandi Patti, New Song - so many songs that bring me to tears year after year. I recall waking up year after year and watching in wonder as my children discovered the tree for the first time on Christmas morning - yes, we used to wait to put up the tree on Christmas Eve night after the children went to bed. Steve put a stop to that madness ages ago...
Our worst Christmas ever... 2008.
As I put the decorations on the tree, I try to remember where each one came from and some story that makes it special. There are the volcanic glass teardrop-shaped ornaments that we bought on our honeymoon in Hawaii. There are the Disney characters purchased in Disney World in November of 1999 when Kristiana was 6 and Daniel was 3. There are the handmade ones that we created and decorated at the Norwalk library. The one I acquired in the tiny wood carver's shop in Orvieto, Italy. The ones bought for and sent to us from friends and family far away- Connecticut, Arkansas, Holland, Belgium, China, Russia, and elsewhere. Ornaments presented to us on the occasion of our first Christmas here in North Carolina. I will not tell a lie: I have been known to kiss an ornament or two as I put it on the tree. I suppose that being alone when I do that is not a bad thing.
Don't you love my big comfy couch?
Not every Christmas has been merry and bright around here. But every Christmas - at least for the past ten years - has been graced with the towering, loyal, quiet, majestic presence of this tree I have come to adore. This tree that I would gladly hug if I could...
Instead of hugging it, however, I sit and stare at it. I give thanks for its endurance and for the joy it heralds. I marvel at the fast-approaching day, the sacred day on which we celebrate the birth of the King of Kings, that impossibly large figure in human history laid to sleep in that impossibly small wooden manger in an impossibly smelly wooden stall in a tiny town so far from here. That same King, I have read and come to believe, died on a horribly distorted tree 33 short years later - that is one tree I would not want to hug.
Yup, with very few exceptions, I am a tree-hugging liberal.
Nope, I'm not ashamed of it. Not even a little bit.
Blessed Advent to you all.