This Old Tree has been around a few years – fifteen, in fact. I bought it in a post holiday, 75% percent off sale with money I received for Christmas. It was my first year as a single parent. I thought it was important for my kids to have something that represented home and family – something stable. The year before, we put up a used three foot tree from Goodwill. It was rickety and crooked: our very own Peanuts Christmas tree! It was something, but honestly, not much.
The new tree was six and a half feet tall. In those days, it provided all the room we needed for hanging ornaments the kids made in school. It proudly displayed the creative talents of three of the most inspired people I know. The entire month of December in the first year we assembled it in the living room, we painted ceramic ornaments as a family at the kitchen table and hung them as they dried. Standing tall in our modest rental apartment, decked out in glitter, paint and pipe cleaners, the tree represented another year for the four of us making it on our own.
This old tree has only made one major move – from one garage at the rental to another at a house I now own. That fact is important as it reminds me of the challenges I faced putting down roots, something I’d never been able to accomplish before. Pulling it from the same spot in the garage every year I realize that I’m grown capable and responsible and committed to creating home for myself and family.
Although I would have liked to, I have never shared the decorating of this tree with a man (except for my two sons and my cat). Shaping its branches and arranging the lights, I’m acutely aware of being alone this year. The kids are now all gone and I’m the only one choosing the ornaments, all glass, silver and gold with a few blue and purple ones here and there. I don’t have to put it up. No one would really mind if I didn’t. But I bring it out anyway to celebrate the abundance of the life I’ve been given and cherish.
Because this old tree is about as romantic a thing as I can think of and I love it. I wouldn’t miss out on it for anything. I’m nostalgic about its past. It brings back memories and represents hope and new beginnings for me. There’s something a little sacred in unwrapping the ornaments from their packaging – like the tree and its trappings connect year to year, reminding me of where I’ve been and promising an even better tomorrow. Maybe next year someone special will help me adorn the branches, carols playing in the background, lights glowing on the polished hardwoods, paper and boxes strewn about, emptied of their treasures. We’ll see…
Until then it’s me and Scratch, my cat who is as excited to see this old tree come out of its box as any human could be. Both have been with me since that first year on my own. As I string the lights, he’s right up in the middle of things, anxious for me to be done with the decorating so he can take a nap under its branches. I don’t know why he likes it so much; he just always has. . . . What does your Christmas tree mean to you?