There are times in life when you just have to uncurl your unyielding, icy fingers and let things drop from the death grip with which you are clutching them, especially old traditions that have simply become inflexible customs. The after effects can be surprisingly refreshing, as I was able to experience over the past Thanksgiving weekend. Our kids were visiting for the holiday. These are the self-same children from last year’s blog, Looking for the Pink House. I was able to experience a little bit of Christmas through their eyes, the side of Christmas that has been missing for a long time.
Before I even get started, I’ll just say, “Christmas Tree and Me…a really big deal!”
As I shared last Christmas, putting up the Christmas tree has always been a “thing” for me. My dad let me start helping him put the tree up when I was about seven years old. I probably took over the task completely by the time I was thirteen or fourteen. By the time I was in my early twenties, I was a Christmas tree control freak! Every ornament placed on that tree had a specific memory attached to it. From the gold, red, green and white star at the top of the tree (that was bought the year we moved to Kentucky because the angel stopped working,) to the ugly plastic bells, which are my priceless treasures (that were part of my parent’s first Christmas tree,) to the rocking horses (acquired when we first moved to Tennessee) and twelve days of Christmas globes at the bottom of the tree (that were purchased by a friend), they were all part of the story of this tree and the story of the life of our family. How could I possibly let that go?
Ah, but sometimes the “letting go” is where you, surprisingly, find the greatest joy! The children got here Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. (Well, their parents came also.) It is always a love fest when they arrive. Most of the time it has been a number of months since we have seen each other and there are lots of hugs and kisses and unbelief of how much they have grown in such a short time. This time was no different. It truly is astounding how their personalities are evolving and they are growing into intelligent, interesting, fun little humans!
My “thing” to do while the children are here, has become breakfast. We have been doing this long enough now that there are specific rituals associated with particular days. Normally, Thursday morning is Hardee’s; Friday morning is Treat and eggs; Saturday morning is chocolate waffles; and Sunday morning is Hardee’s again. It seems that since the last visit, in July, that all three children have become “Treat and egg” connoisseurs — all three of them, even the five year old! They had them on Thursday, Friday, with the chocolate waffles on Saturday and I even managed to fix them before I went to church on Sunday morning! According the the nine-year old, middle child, I am the best “egg fryer” bar none. Although, I’m not sure she wanted to admit that too loudly, because her dad was pretty close and I hear he makes a pretty mean fried egg also.
All in all, we had fourteen for Thanksgiving dinner. Afterward, we hung out, we watched movies, napped, played beauty shop (thanks to Raley) and played card games. Then, Friday afternoon, we dared to voyage out into the “Black Friday Shopping” experience. By the time we got out and about, most of the professional shoppers were home crashed from their early-morning escapades. We did dinner and a movie and then when we got home, we watched a Christmas movie on Netflix that was promoted during the previews of the film we’d just seen at the movies. It was special times spent with special family.
On Friday night, I told my cousin that I’d made an executive decision. They were going to have an adult day, by themselves, as we were keeping the children entertained on Saturday. They were all for that. The first thing they did was sleep in! Way to go! Then they went out and about and had a date day.
Here is where the Christmas tree comes in. Most every year I have my Christmas tree up before they get here; because we celebrate Christmas together the Saturday after Thanksgiving. There had just been no time to get the tree in out of the storage building and get it up and decorated, with all my many strands of lights and all my hundreds (total overload) of Christmas ornaments. Although, on Wednesday afternoon, before they arrived, I did drag the tree in the house. I also grabbed a couple of bags of small ornaments. I figured that I would go back to the building after Thanksgiving and pull some more ornaments and get the tree fully decorated. From Wednesday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, I came up with a different plan though. I was going to let the children decorate the tree. You say, “So What?” Ah, but for me to turn loose of that particular task really is something.
Once the parents left for their date day, we started with our projects. Our first task was painting clear ornaments. They were plastic, but looked like old fashioned glass ornaments. I poured paint inside of mine and rolled it around in Christmas green and red. The children chose to paint the outside of their ornaments. We put them aside to dry. The next craft we did was to paint rocks. Myself, I don’t really get the ‘rock painting’ thing; but I bought a kit for them so they could paint them for their parents. They ended up giving mom and I each one of the ones they painted. Then I cut out strips and strips of construction paper and handed the older children a couple of staplers. They worked on making paper chains for over two hours. They loved it. They worked so well together. The two older children were very patient with the five-year old and they allowed her to be a part of the process. Then when they were finished with the paper chains, they (all on their own) started making other Christmas ornaments out of the construction paper. Priceless!
I put the paper chain on the top of the tree and took it down far enough for them to be able to finish. I turned the decorating of the tree over to them. Where ever they wanted to place the ornaments, that was fine. This was their tree. They did such an amazing job! They loved it. We loved it! A good time was had by all! The tree is simply decorated, but I love it more than any tree I have had in a long time. I believe a new tradition has been established.
Watching Christmas through the children’s eyes was eye-opening for me. To them, this was a really big deal. I think it gave them a larger stake in our Christmas celebration. I sit and look at the tree this year and think back to all of the times that I spent hours and hours, and sometimes even days, getting the Christmas tree to the perfection that I expected. I think I was making it too complicated. I think we all tend to, sometimes, make Christmas too complicated. We should maybe look at it through a child’s eyes. After all, it is all about the “Child.” It’s about how that Child came down to our level so that we could see what real perfection looks like.
Am I going to tweak the tree or change it toward my previous views of perfection? Absolutely not. I love it just as it is. I look at the tree and I see love. You can’t get any more Christmas than that!
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8-14)