Our Christmas tree almost stressed me out last week.
First of all, let me remind you that I'm not someone who stresses about Christmas or any of the hoopla. I know. Go ahead and hate me. I happily send Christmas cards. Our Elf moves every night (although he will never cause mischief). I love the excuse to shop. I love feeling blessed as I wrap piles of gifts. I love hosting the family on Christmas Eve. I might occasionally comment that I've got a lot to do, but when the stuff you have to do is stuff you like doing, it's not a big deal.
But...last week I almost let myself get a little worked up. Traditionally Adam and I put our tree up two weekends before Christmas. We get a live tree and we like to leave it up through the beginning of January. We've found that this particular weekend usually gives us the most life out of our tree. We still have plenty of time to enjoy it before Christmas and it's not drooping and dry for the big day.
Anyway, our tree had been cut and was sitting in a bucket of water in the garage, waiting for us to put it in the stand, string the lights and decorate. And suddenly I was very aware that my Facebook feed was just full of beautiful Christmas trees. Beautifully decorated, gorgeously lit, show quality Christmas trees. Coordinated colors, draped garland and ribbon, impeccable spacing. These trees are spectacular.
And not at all like our tree.
Our tree is a mishmash of childhood ornaments from thirty plus years ago, ornaments given to me by ten years of students, ornaments the girls have already begun to accumulate.
Some of them are missing pieces. We have more than a few one legged or one armed characters.
We have ornaments that the my mom made years and years ago that the girls have swiped from her tree.
We have the free ornaments that we've collected from random places.
It's not like I can say that every ornament has special meaning or a great story. Sure, we've got a beautiful ornament we picked up on our honeymoon, intended for our first tree in our new home as a married couple. We have a beautiful "First Christmas" locket with our wedding picture. We have a new home ornament, several "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments for each girl, and bells we've collected every year from our church's Christmas Eve service. But we also have ornaments that have no special origin story other than "I think I bought this in an after Christmas sale one year when I was living in my apartment" or "this was tied onto a package of candy I got one year in my stocking...I think I was in middle school". And those stories might not even be true.
So I can't even claim that our eclectic tree is totally sentimental. Because it isn't. It has sentimental parts, more so than a perfectly gorgeous department store tree might have, but there's some definite filler and the filler isn't even pretty.
And let's talk about the placement of these ornaments. They are not perfectly spaced and distributed. The bottom is heavy with kid friendly ornaments and the top is loaded with breakable bulbs. The middle is a little sparse. There are no ribbons or garlands. And I even decided to forgo the "filler" balls that could tie things together.
It's not color coordinated.
It's not impeccably designed.
It's not even delightfully eclectic because it's comprised solely of memories.
I've always loved our tree, but as I looked at all these pictures - and many of these pictures are from friends who also have small children - and then at our boxes of ornaments, I started to feel like our tree might be a little inadequate. A litte shabby. A little messy. A little...dare I say it...embarrassing? Did I need to step up my game? Can I post a picture on Facebook without having to justify it with a passive aggressive comment about how "it might not be the most beautiful tree, but it has meaning", implying that I'm judging your pretty tree because it's soulless? Which I'm not even doing? Ugh.
But, as is my Christmas tradition, I decided not to let it stress me out and I just ignored those thoughts for a while. Adam put the tree up and the girls helped him string the lights. And after dinner on Sunday we all gathered in the living room to decorate.
I love it, not because it's full of meaning for me (although it is), or because it's so beautiful to someone who may see it in their newsfeed, but because of how the girls see it. They own this tree. They helped pick it out at the nursery. They helped Daddy string the lights. They did a huge chunk of the decorating. They talked about each and every ornament they hung and asked questions about where we got it and when we got it.
And they think it's gorgeous.They walk by and talk about it. They lie underneath and sigh. They point out their favorite ornaments. They don't see it as anything more or less than the gorgeous trees they see anywhere else. It's just another Christmas tree, equal in every way, except that this one is the best because it's ours.