Pat and I decorated our Christmas tree over the weekend. It’s a small, artificial—fake—tree that came out of the box with lights already installed. We stuck it on a plant stand to give it a little height and it still doesn’t come up to my chin. It’s significantly smaller than the 7-foot—also fake—tree we’ve decorated for the past seven or eight years, so we had too few branches on which to hang many of the decorations we’ve collected over the last 34 Christmases.
Most of those are boxed up and stashed in a storage unit, one of the side effects of a decision we made last summer to downsize from a three-bedroom house (complete with yard, attached garage, trees and a gazebo) to a two-bedroom apartment. Truthfully, we no longer needed all that space for just the two of us. And I have not missed the usual fall activities of raking and bagging leaves, trimming shrubs so we could install outdoor lights and draining the irrigation system for the winter.
We could have foregone a tree altogether but neither one of us would have liked that very much. It’s been a ritual every year since we’ve been married and the place would have seemed dreary without those colorful ornaments and bright lights.
As I pulled this small tree out of the storage unit I thought about some of the trees we’ve decorated over the years. When I was a kid we started looking for a good one right after Thanksgiving, usually while we were rabbit hunting but sometimes on planned tree-hunt excursions. We always cut cedars; that’s what was available. And I tried to find one with a bird’s nest in one of the branches so I’d have a natural spot for my bird ornament.
For several years I sold trees for a civic club that accepted me as a member, and I felt obligated to buy one for the cause. We took our children to similar Christmas tree lots when they were small and let them help pick out the perfect tree. We switched to artificial when my son developed allergies and seemed to get bronchitis every Christmas.
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The tree we used until this year was fairly big, and we had a great place in a loft area of the house to install it so that it shined brightly through the front windows. Pat was meticulous about placing the ornaments “just so.” I was less particular and often discovered that some of the ones I hung on the branches had been rearranged. I didn’t mind.
I will miss, a little bit, going through the boxes of ornaments and remembering where we got a particular one, or what special event happened that year. We have Auburn University ornaments, Clemson University ornaments, some home-made ones, a few that commemorate our children’s ages or accomplishments.
My special thing, for the past five or six years, has been my nutcracker collection, but so far I haven’t found which box we put them in. I may look again.
We hung the wreath on the door and have begun to pile gifts for grandkids and others in a corner of my office. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas over that way.
The tree might be a bit smaller this year; we may not have shrubbery festooned with bright lights, and a lot of the usual decorative items are stored away. But we don’t expect Christmas to be any smaller. We have a new grandson to help celebrate his first Christmas. We’ll see him, his two brothers and other family in a day or two, see some more on Christmas Eve, and we’ll have a small gathering here on Christmas Day. Nothing small about that.
The reason for Christmas remains the same. We wish for all peace and goodwill. We will still be thankful for friends and family and immeasurable blessings. And we will appreciate another year together.