Today is the day we put up the Christmas tree. We will gradually decorate it during the week. We always do it the first week of Advent. It means that Christmas is really coming. The Christmas tree is one of those rituals filled with memories.
I remember going to the local tree lot with my father as a boy and picking out a tree. When I became a dad I made a point of always cutting down our own tree with the kids. Of course it was at Peter Pohl’s tree farm on Maple Ridge, but it still had the feel of trudging into the deep forest.
Somehow the tree we selected always seemed perfect. Every year we would step back and admire the conifer and say, “This is the best tree ever!” The smell of the tree filled the home. The decorating of the tree was a family affair.
Now we have too many allergies to have a real tree. We settle for an artificial tree, but it looks very real. Plus I only have to trudge to the shed in the backyard to retrieve it. Now, of course, the kids are grown with kids of their own. I put the three pieces of the tree together, and the lights are already permanently attached.
But still, when it takes its place in the corner it suddenly becomes once again the perfect tree. When the boxes of ornaments come out of the attic, memories come flooding out. We have ornaments that stretch back to the beginning of our marriage forty years ago. There are even some from further back, from our own childhoods.
The ornaments tell the story of our family. Many were made by our kids when they were small. There are olive wood ornaments from the semester we spent as a family in Israel in 1991. One has the name of a Palestinian girl who had a crush on our oldest son. We keep that one just to see him blush every year.
There is a brass star engraved with the name of our granddaughter Lily, who died at birth – a life unlived. There are ornaments purposely placed on the lower boughs for our cat to play with. There are lots of handcrafted ornaments. In fact nearly all of them are handmade.
Many depict birds and small animals. Others are religious, to remind us that the tree is a symbol of the Tree of Life. There is a manger scene nestled right between Tigger and Saint Nick.
There are wooden ornaments that picture the two church meetinghouses in Sandwich. We have put those on our tree wherever we have lived, and now we find ourselves back in Sandwich. This year we will add a commemorative ornament celebrating the 250th anniversary of Sandwich.
Our tree is a tree of memories. It is the proverbial trip down memory lane. It brings tears, smiles, and laughter. It lights up our living room with more than electric lights. It lights up our hearts. And when the grandchildren stand and gawk at it, I see memories being born.
(Painting is Christmas Tree Farm by Laura Tasheiko)