Oh, Christmas Trees

Oh, Christmas Trees

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Oh, Christmas Trees

I can still recall the butterflies that took flight in my stomach when my mother told me that we would be purchasing not one, but two Christmas trees. To the ears of a little girl, more beautiful words had never been spoken.

I immediately assumed that the addition of a second Christmas tree would serve the sole purpose of creating additional space for gifts. Regrettably, this was not the case. One tree was for my mother to decorate by herself in elegant white lights and sparkling crystal angels, while the ornamentation of the second would be left to the discretion of my younger brother and me. Quite obviously, these two trees would be at opposite ends in the spectrum of aesthetic taste.

That first year of having two trees marked the beginning of a family tradition. Each December, my mother worked tirelessly perfecting her masterpiece, which in its completion, hovered ethereally in an outward-facing window for all to see. If prizes were awarded for beautiful Christmas trees, my mother would undoubtedly have taken home the blue ribbon. Its perfectly spaced spiral of twinkling white lights was echoed by a band of gold chiffon ribbon, which together set the stage for an array of luminous angels. The combined effect of its supernatural strength and extreme delicacy was enough to cause anyone to wonder if this tree grew from the soil of heaven itself.

However, if you were to turn and walk about twenty paces to the left, you would be confronted with a different Christmas tree. In place of the spiraling gold chiffon, strings of popcorn were strewn in a seemingly careless manner among colored lights, some blinking, others not, all equally irregular in their placement. In contrast to our mother, my brother and I had no theme for our tree, unless, of course, macaroni smothered in Elmer’s glue and an abundance of Popsicle sticks could be considered a theme. Unlike our mother’s tree, ours shared the joys of sticky hands and painstaking concentration. In short, it boasted of imperfection, an imperfection that was ours alone.

As a child, I always preferred our playful tree to our mother’s elegant one. However, in my maturity, I have come to appreciate the value of each tree separately, or perhaps, the value generated by the presence of both together. The first declared the perfection we often expected from ourselves and others, while the second told the story of real-life experiences. I learned that we must keep our lofty ideals in one pocket and earthly practicalities in the other, because we, like Christmas in my household, would be otherwise incomplete. Who’s to say that macaroni trees don’t line the forests of heaven?

Ellen Brown

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