Monday, December 13, 2010

Ornamental Story Telling

Every year, when we get out the ornaments to decorate the tree, I'm reminded again of how they tell some of the story of my life. These baubles of glass and plastic have an emblematic provenance for me.

The plastic pears and gold balls recall sweet friends who showed up at my door with gifts to trim my tree when I sorely needed both the tree filler and the encouragement they offered.
Another sweet friend cross-stitched this one for me during those same dark years.
The decorated eggs were bought in Prague on trips that reminded me of who I really am at a time when I wasn't sure. They still move me with their painstaking artistry, executed on something that would normally be discarded, and with what e. e. cummings might have called their intense fragility.
One ornament holds the 7-year-old thumbprints of my son.
Some are gifts--from my mother
or old friends now gone from my life
or the bakery where I worked for 9 1/2 years.
One was given to me and Dave by his mother for our first married Christmas.
The sailor was bought in honor of Dave's stint in the Naval reserves. I still remember where I was traveling when I found it.
A tin icicle bought my first solo year dangles beside the vintage style Eiffel tower I picked up on clearance at Target the day after Christmas last year.
This jaunty spatula was a gift, just yesterday, from the director of the Christmas play I was in this year. (You had to know the character. And I do!)
There is no theme or color scheme here, no designer touch. Our tree is trimmed with what life has offered up over the last nine years--gifts, intuitive purchases, and even desperation measures.

For years I dreamed of a designer tree, where everything is chosen and color matched and perfect. But to achieve that goal, I would have to reject the stories and gifts and choices that are the real story of my life in favor of what goes with this year's colors. I can't see me re-boxing my son's childhood craft just because it "doesn't go."

The Christmas that my dear friend brought me the pears, I decided that planned decorating just wasn't going to work for me. I had tried to concoct my own fresh scheme for purely aesthetic reasons and felt absolutely uninspired. I ended up with unplanned plastic pears that I cherish to this day because they're an emblem of rescuing love. That old saying that life is what happens while you're planning something else apparently applies to Christmas trees, too.

I still have my longing for the magazine version of Christmas. But every year I choose real life all over again, with it's messy variety and unexpected warmth. I hang the motley but meaningful assortment of ornaments, remembering who and what and where and when.

After all, If I had my perfect tree, it would only please my eyes. It wouldn't speak to my heart and mind the way our scruffy cedar with it's collection of memories does. I embrace the life-story decor that happened while I thought I wanted to plan something else and anticipate the additions to come.

Our tree may not be perfect, but it sure tells me a lot about who I am. Look at your own ornaments with fresh eyes. What story do they tell?

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