I’ve always wanted to have one of those perfect Christmas trees like you see in magazine layouts, or on Martha Stewart Live, or in the homes of those amazingly gracious, talented and hospitable women that went to our church when we were kids.
It’s always been a symbol of a good housewife to me — someone who has the organizational skills to collect and store all of those colour-coordinated ornaments year after year, who has the eye to display it all beautifully, who has the parenting skills to keep little hands from rearranging, and who has the housekeeping abilities to keep the never-ending cascade of pine needles from ever actually showing.
Growing up, our tree was never like that. We would trudge out to one of the mostly abandoned railroad tracks outside of Cannington, and search for the perfect tree top. Yes, the top — because if it’s got enough branches to be a good Christmas tree, it’s been around long enough to be too big to fit in most people’s living rooms. Once we found the perfect one, one of my brothers would climb it and cut off the top 6 or 7 feet. After dragging it up onto the tracks and then loading it onto the car, we would head home for an afternoon of tree decorating, accompanied by hot chocolate and Christmas carols.
With our hodgepodge of ancient handmade glass balls, school-made cut-and-paste ornaments, and tinsel, our tree was anything but coordinated. And to make matters worse, trees that grow wild alongside the railroad tracks are never … how shall I put it? Well, they’re never symmetrical, they’re never bushy, they’re always lopsided, and the bottom branches are always way too long. In short, they aren’t the kind of tree you’d choose to be the subject of a magazine layout.
I couldn’t stand it. The decorations were placed with no forethought, and everything was just a mass of Christmas colours and fallen needles. It was so … disorganized. Everyone else in my family loved it, and I could never understand why.
I’ve spent the last 15 years as a wife, and for 14 of those years, I’ve tried very, VERY hard to keep my Christmas tree looking as nice as possible. There were the silver and blue years and the red and gold years, when every ornament was carefully chosen to maintain the colour scheme. And we’ve only had a real tree one or two of those years. It had to be artificial (albeit cheap), because that’s the only real way I could control the bushiness and the symmetry of my tree. But this year, we opted for a real live tree. Dropping needles and all.
Throwing everything to the wind, the kids decorated it. Although I WAS pretty strict about the fact that the lights had to go on first, then the ribbon, and THEN the ornaments. But after that, they had complete control.
And it shows.
So today as I was sitting beside a drowsy toddler as she drifted off mesmerized by the twinkling lights on our Christmas tree, I found myself wondering how it came to look so good. With a string of lights that twinkles while another stays on continually, a crepe paper wreath hanging on one branch, and a series of broken branches on one side (which may have fallen victim to an unsteady child), really, our tree looks amazing! It may be because it’s a real pine, it may be because of the sugar cookie buzz that’s lingering from our baking spree this morning, but whatever it is, it looks BEAUTIFUL!
And so I start to think that maybe I had a hand in making it look so wonderful, so colourful, and so Christmasy. That is, until my eyes wander to the top of the tree.
At the top of the tree sits a porecelin angel, who came all the way home with us from Calgary. With her flowing gown and golden wings, she looks positively majestic sitting atop our little tree. Well, she did yesterday, anyway.
I mentally calculate logistics and the physics of climbing up on the couch, or of leaning over the railing to move the angel, assuming a 4.5 foot stature of the potential perpetrator, but I come up with nothing. How did our angel come to have her back to the room? Could those broken branches have something to do with it?
However it happened, I think I’ll leave her that way, at least for a little while. Because our Christmas tree isn’t perfect. The year it is perfect, is the year that we no longer have little ones around to rearrange ornaments, to lick sugar cookie icing from the whisk, or to wake up 3 hours before dawn on Christmas morning to sneak back to bed with a mysteriously full stocking.
That year will come soon enough, but I’m glad it’s not here yet. Until then, I’m happy with my imperfect Christmas tree and my backwards angels.