Monday, December 15, 2014

Decorating the Tree

We finally got our tree decorated tonight.  The tree is not a groomed, symmetrical, farmed fir.  None of the ornaments match or coordinate in really anyway, and are thrown on somewhat haphazardly wherever the kids happen to be able to reach.  I couldn't love it more.

Decorating the tree is always one of my favorite parts of getting ready for Christmas.  This simple activity is consistently one of the best reminders of how much love surrounds us.

This year, the tree itself was a gift.  A man in our ward--who has consistently been wonderfully kind to our family since we moved into the ward a little more than two years ago--found out we were still without a tree.  On Sunday, he asked how high our ceilings were, and then showed up on our porch that afternoon with this beautiful 10 foot pine.  He and his wife had gone out after church in the snow (about 3 feet deep where they went) and cut a tree for us.

The ornaments are a mish-mash of thoughtfulness and affection.  There are the little snowmen ornaments and the temple ones from Mimi and Papa.  There's the pewter one from Papa Clark, and the star fish one from auntie Manda.  There are the shell ones we bought at The Shell Shop in Morro Bay when Dylan was a baby.  The black bear ornaments we bought while visiting Cabela's with auntie Jen and uncle Paul. There are the handprint and photo ornaments of various types that the kids have made over the years with me or in preschool and elementary school. There are so many which have been handmade by auntie Christa over the years for all the kids.  The tree skirt wrapped around the base was a wedding gift--made by Grandma Clark, who has now left us.
For me, it really doesn't really feel like Christmas until there's a tree up, the living room warm with the soft glow of the lights.

Our tree is decorated with love, in every sense.  The tree itself is meant as a symbol of hope, of love triumphing over death, separation, and sadness.  And the ornaments we hang on it every year are simple little reminders of how much love surrounds our family.  Because I married a boy from a town more than 1,000 miles away from the place I call home, every Christmas since we got married has been spent far away from one family or the other (or both).  The decorations are evidence that we are in the hearts of people we love but can't always be with, and I have always been grateful for the homesickness I tend to feel at Christmas time--I have always known that it exists only because there are so very many people in my life who are worth missing.
After I put my camera away and started writing, I noticed that one of our elves found a comfortable spot on the window pane behind the tree.  She's an elf that came to us from my Grandma Umphrey. Grandma said she thought the elf was a little younger than my dad.  We lost Grandma just a few months ago, and seeing little Hope (as the kids named her) perched there amongst the evergreen boughs and sparkling lights is a sweet reminder that even the separations that seem so far, so permanent are--thanks to the glorious, powerful love we celebrate this time of year--merely temporary.  I am increasingly grateful for that every year.

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