quiet. but not at all…

IMG_0429Each year someone will hear me say, “There’s nothing darker than an unlit Christmas tree.” It’s true. When a Christmas tree’s lights are turned off, the whole thing is unnaturally dark. But, when I sit late at night next to my tall, indoor (artificial) evergreen, with its many windings of bright white lights, I’m surprised at how quiet it is. But it isn’t. It’s like, the room is quiet, and the tree exudes a peace…but, it doesn’t. There’s such life in it. It’s almost like there’s a protective barrier around the whole beautiful thing — and underneath, there’s movement and beauty and life. All happening right there. Makes.no.sense. <— I know. But, I feel it. You see, my family room tree — and yes, I need to delineate between my trees because I do indeed have several in my house — my family room tree has all the ornaments we have collected throughout our many years of marriage, my husband and I. Some came with us when we said “I Do” and shared our first married Christmas twenty-two years ago. Others were hand crafted in our early years together, some gifted to us, some gifted to each other. Most of the ornaments on our tree have a story behind them. There’s a clear glass star from my mother. I can recall her telling me, as I opened it many years ago, that it was a very simple ornament that really had no special meaning behind it other than she thought it was pretty. It is simple, and lovely in its simpleness; but, the memory of that small exchange, and my love for her and the yearly ornaments she would get us, make it absolutely beautiful to me. There’s a small ornament-shaped cut out, fashioned from a piece of poster board decades ago. It has a tiny pipe cleaner for a hanger and a whole bunch of tiny sequins glued onto it (which, remarkably, have remained well adhered all these years.) My husband made it when he was one year old. There’s a true Parkay (Par KAAAAAay) margarine tub, in all its tell-tale yellow glory, with white cotton balls, a green glitter trail in a big circle on said cotton balls, and in the center of the tub — a teeny, tiny, photo of my husband at a very young age. Interspersed with those very old handmade treasures are needlepoint with lace from cousins showcasing talent in the 80s, souvenirs from trips we’ve taken the last two decades, collectibles from grandparents, a few traditional glass balls, a bunch that make us laugh a lot, one that embarrasses me, a large handful of the obligatory beaded wreathes and candy canes…you get the idea. You have these too, yes? My point is this — there is life on this tree. On this month-plus-*usually*-five-days tradition that lands in my family room each year, is life. The paths I trace with my eyes as sit on my sofa, take me down paths I’ve walked in years past. I sit in the late-night silence feeling the life burst from  every branch, every ornament on this (artificial) tree that is topped with a star. A star that my children take turns placing each year. “Whose turn is it this year?” (The ten-year old finds a moment to sneak to the computer to look through iPhoto for last year’s tree trimming pictures, just to be *sure* the right person gets the honor.) Back to the tree. I’m thankful for this tree. The memories on it lengthen and grow each year. New ones join in. The thought occurred to me this year as we put it up that I’m pretty sure it’s the most heritage filled, memory rich something we own. Every year we piece it together as a family, smiling over the past it brings to mind. Getting a bit misty eyed at the happiness mixed with sadness that makes some of the treasures bittersweet. And laughing over the homeliness of certain items that continue to be hung, regardless of their ugliness. So much emotion wrapped up in this quiet tree in the corner of the family room. So much life, that is rarely quiet. It makes for a unique combination — quiet, yet shiny and bursting with life. I’m thankful for the tradition of the Christmas tree. The strange tradition of putting up a tree, for a month (plus a few days), each year, in my living space, that draws out the beautiful, unforgettable, life-giving moments that can energize and quiet, at the same time. That’s a gift to me.