So the other night my family gathered around to decorate the Christmas tree while holiday favorites played softly in the background, and the flickering light of candles danced off our glasses of egg nog. Ummmm…..Yeah, not so much.
And that’s possibly (okay, probably) partly my fault. I might be a bit of a control freak when it comes to decorating the tree. And I may have a smidgen of a problem with creating a Norman Rockwell scene in my head and then expecting real life to measure up.
The first year I figured Dr. Smooth was old enough to help decorate, I had all Disney ornaments. I had painted a lovely picture in my head of my little four-year-old oohing and aahing over the Disney ornaments as we carefully placed them on the tree together.
Reality was more that a four-year-old sees Mickey, Minnie, Tigger and the gang as TOYS. Meant to be played with! And those little arms and legs and accessories aren’t supposed to move, but I’m here to tell you that with enough effort, they will break right off! I ended up putting more glue on those ornaments than the original sweatshop factory worker that made them. (Bless their hearts.)
But I really wanted decorating the tree to be a treasured tradition that the entire family would remember fondly in years to come and carry on with their own families. So I tried to overcome my control issues (sort of).
I tried to be more patient and understanding and less neurotic about where the ornaments were hung. I tried to convince myself it was cute to have all the ornaments hanging from knee-height down. But I couldn’t stand it. I would always sneak back into the living room and move them all after bedtime.
Eventually, I phased out all the Disney ornaments and started acquiring ornaments in purple, silver and gold to complete the beautiful, elegant theme of the perfect tree in my head.And as each year brought unique and wonderful new handmade ornaments of construction paper and yarn, I treasured, loved and appreciated them. I would not dream of not hanging them on the tree, and I even tried not to notice how they didn’t quite match my theme at all.
Then I married My Knight and he brought along a whole set of his own ornaments with memories and sentimentality of their own (none of which were purple, silver or gold). I cringed and tried to be the giving person my heart said I should be.
I redirected a few of my control issues by implementing a “mom’s tree” in the living room a few years ago. My tree is covered in purple, silver and gold with white lights, glittery snowflakes, Eiffel Towers, hand-painted angels, and delicate fancy bows. It is elegant and pretty, and it is beautiful. And I love it.
In the family room, the family tree has every single ornament that was ever brought home or received. Amid colored lights are cars, Cat in the Hat, soccer balls, and snowmen. Construction paper and yarn and angels made from paper plates. It’s a tree that represents our family’s history and our interests through the years. It’s eclectic, colorful, sentimental and poignant. It is beautiful, and I love it.
Every year, the image in my head of us decorating the family tree is always soft-focus and Hallmark. The kids will ask me about each ornament and proudly hang it after I tell them the history. We will laugh and drink egg nog while we sing “Dreaming of a White Christmas” together (in Florida where it’s 84 degrees in December). Then we will sigh in wonder as My Knight puts his mom’s art-deco star on top with its big, clear acrylic ball and a dancing, whirling light show that spins colors all over the room.
It doesn’t EVER go down that way.
But this year, I prayed for Peace on Earth, and then I prayed for peace in me. I asked that I would be able to just let go and enjoy the process. Even if they complained about the Christmas carols. Even if the ornaments were all hung on one side of the tree with three or four ornaments on a branch. Even if they all got tired of doing it halfway through and left to do other things in the midst of our memory-making.
I pre-strung the lights on the tree the night before to save time and frustration. I baked cookies and bought egg nog. I made one of their favorite meals, and I even put in the more upbeat Christmas CD that a friend had made instead of starting off with Susan Boyle or Kenny Rogers.
After dinner, I explained that decorating the tree is very important to me, and that even though I know it may not be their favorite thing to do, we only have a few years left until they are off to college and their own lives. I asked if we could just make an effort to enjoy decorating the tree, listening to the music, eating the cookies, and making great memories.
Emotional speeches like that go over so well with fourteen-year-olds.
Do we have to listen to Christmas music? I hate Christmas music. Can’t we listen to something else?
Can we go play a few games of pool now and do this later?
How long will this take, because I really wanted to play Xbox?
I don’t like sugar cookies.
Can I have yogurt instead of egg nog?
I took deep breaths and resolved to enjoy the moment. I tried not to pull out my hair and scream like a feral cat when Dr. Smooth hung three ornaments too close together, which sent an antique glass ball shattering all over the tile floor.
I refrained from saying “Well, you made them” when Dr. Smooth set aside the construction paper links and paper angels for me to put on the tree because they were “ugly”.
And I even smiled and sang along when the only song they got excited about was Adam Sandler singing about an entirely different holiday.
Halfway through, they were done. Ready to go do their own thing, ready to listen to their own music, and done appeasing the crazy, sentimental mother in the house.
I would love to tell you that it didn’t bother me that they weren’t enthusiastic and sentimental. I would love to say that I kept in mind the real reason for the season and didn’t get all caught up in something as trivial as Christmas tree ornaments. I would love to say that I didn’t end up crying because it didn’t go the way I pictured it.
But instead of telling you all those lies, I’ll just say the family tree looks beautiful this year, and one day we’ll look back on this as memories.
(And this control-freak extraordinaire gets to decorate her own tree all by herself.)
P.S. I must add that I had NO complaints from My Knight this year about decorating the tree. He normally channels Ebenezer from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, but this year, he was supportive and smiling. He even stayed with me right up until the last decoration was hung and the last teardrop fell. I love that guy!