My husband and I have decorated 26 Christmas trees together. We’ve had real trees, fake trees, and on one particularly poor, but memorable Christmas, a stolen tree. “Nah, we acquired it” my husband said when I read this to him. We’ve decorated with babies crying in the background, toddlers with bright eyes and sticky hands, preschoolers with questions and excitement, and nonplussed teens. Last week was the first time we decorated alone since our very first one so long ago, and it was by far, my favorite.
The decorations we use now, are not ones we originally picked out together (see paragraph below for explanation), these belonged to someone else. They are all antiques, in various stages of antiqueness. Half of them belonged to his side of the family, half to mine. Some are from the early 1900’s and are hand painted, even handblown, and others are plastic beads from the 60’s. I love them all.
It’s really a good thing we were given all these ornaments, because our own ornaments were unceremoniously, albeit mistakenly, brought to the dump by my ADHD suffering husband, 20 years ago. His long(er)-suffering wife occasionally still loses her shit about it when she’s riled up about something that has nothing to do with Christmas. Just the thought of the beautiful glass “Our First Christmas” ornament my sister gave us, and our daughter’s first, in the shape of a pink pacifier, amongst rotting banana peels and dirty diapers in a landfill, makes my blood boil.
Discarded ornaments were not the only thing that made our Christmases memorable. My husband has the gift of resourcefulness. He’s the type of person you would want to be stranded on a deserted island with because not only is he good at getting things done without the tools necessary for the job (being poor in our younger years, has had its advantages), but he’s also a fun person to be around as you while away the hours, waiting to be rescued. Anyway, one year early on in our marriage, we had less money than usual. Quite likely he had been laid off, as he was working inconstruction before he went to college, and I didn’t make much as a CNA, a job I had for many years before I went to nursing school. Apparently, we didn’t have enough money to buy a Christmas tree, so he decided to go into the woods of Maine, and chop one down for free. Unfortunately, although he found a beautiful one, it was on top of an 80 foot tree, which also unfortunately was on privately owned paper company land. Technically this was illegal, however given the fact that this occurred over 20 years ago, I think I’m safe to put it in print, given the whole statute of limitations thing and all. Besides, chopping that thing down with an axe, then hoisting and securing the remaining 18 feet on top of our Ford Tempo, was probably punishment enough. Never mind that 6 feet hung off the back of the sedan, suffice it to say that we live in Maine, and most people around here wouldn’t bat an eye to see such a spectacle hurtling down the highway.
Sadly, we haven’t had a real tree for years, mainly because my son and I are allergic to them. Every year now, he gamely hauls the artificial one down from the attic, puts it together and untangles the lights. Usually, at that point, the kids and I would take over and decorate. Sometimes he helped, sometimes not. Lately though, as we have sort of become “empty-nesters” (sort of, because our college age son still lives with us, although he is often not home), we are doing more and more things alone but together, if that makes sense. The other night, Christmas music on, we decorated. It struck me then, how the traits we each bring to our relationship are unique, yet our adornments are beautiful in their own ways and compliment each other. Some from his side of the family, some from mine, yet they are so enmeshed, they are like one. It is hard to say sometimes, which one came from which family member, or even if they were from my side or his. It is not hard to tell though, that together, they make a beautiful tree and a beautiful life.