One happy addition to our household this year was a new Christmas tree, although it joined us under less than idyllic circumstances. Our previous tree had served us well for the past seven years or so- but stringing it with lights every year was becoming more and more frustrating, because we had adopted the Martha Stewart-ish practice of winding lights from the tip of each branch back to the trunk and out again, to make the tree really glow. The finished product was pretty amazing but O the angst involved in finishing the job ! (Especially for Kathy. I was the first lieutenant when it came to hauling the tree from the basement, but she was the person who handled the light stringing, and what a huge and frustrating undertaking that was.) It was especially maddening over the last couple of years because we would unstring the tree very carefully, and pack away each and every strand in its own plastic ziplock bag, just like the expert at Stein’s Garden Center told us – only to find that between a quarter and a third of the strands wouldn’t light up at all the following Christmas. But it was this year’s epic tree struggle that topped them all. The bottom third of the tree was up and after several hours of frustrating work Kathy had just about finished illuminating it when she plugged in the last strand of lights and the whole works went dark as though someone had just thrown a switch. I wouldn’t have blamed her a bit if she had picked the thing up and thrown it through the living room window – or better yet, taken an ax to it. Instead, we decided that our main Christmas present to each other would be a new tree. . . and pre-lit, to boot. . . and it has made both of us a whole lot more merry than we otherwise would have been.
It was nice that this was our year to host Kathy’s family for Christmas and to have our new tree rising in the midst of our celebration. And when the Barrows were over that evening, one of my favorite times was when we were sitting in the living room and Kate was asking about various ornaments on the tree and where they had come from. I’m sure most of you feel like we do – that there are so many stories tied up in the ornaments with which we adorn our respective trees, and also that the way we decorate our Christmas trees says something about who we are or what we’re like. I remember one Christmas when Kathy and I lived on Carmel Avenue when we were quite certain that we had somehow thrown out our box of ornaments – believing that we had discarded the box by mistake. We actually shed some tears over our loss, only to discover to our chagrin that they weren’t lost after all. But for a terrible few minutes, we were convinced that they were gone. . . not that they were valuable in any sort of monetary sense (we don’t go for Radko ornaments or anything fancy – although we have a couple of things on the tree from Europe) but that they were so much a part of our lives and of our life together and to lose them would have been like losing a precious photo album – and just that irreplaceable.
At one point in the afternoon, one of us realized that that there were small spheres of colored light all over the walls and the ceiling of our living room – and it took us a few moments to finally figure out that it was caused by the sunlight streaming through the windows and catching a colorful ornament on the front of the tree which I was given by former student J.D. Strauss. It was covered with brilliantly colored mirrored squares sort of like one of those spinning balls in a disco – and the sunlight was catching it just right to throw colors all over our walls. The same thing happened again today, and we decided that every year hence, we need to make sure that we hang that same ornament in exactly the same place on the tree so we can enjoy this lovely little light show again and again.
Tomorrow we are off to Madison to meet Dad and Sonja as well as Matt and Randi and Company. (I can’t remember if Nathan can join us or if he has to work. These are obviously busy days at a place like Target.) Steve, Scott and Henry will not be making the trip from Seattle, but at least we were all together back in October for dad’s 75th birthday bash. But it will be nice to have most of the Bergs together- and when we get back, Kathy’s Aunt Linda should be already camped out in our home. She flies in from St. Louis tomorrow night. So all in all we are going to be basking in the rich blessing of loving family – a blessing far more substantive than any 9-foot artificial Christmas tree.
pictured above: Taken Christmas Day afternoon. At the left of the picture are Polly and Lorelai. At the right is Kathy’s dad. Seeing them helps give you an even more vital perspective on just how big our tree is. And it’s big because the room is so big, and anything less than a 9-foot would look a little bit like the tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in that vast expanse. This tree looks so right there, it’s almost as though it came with the house or that we built the house around the tree. . . almost like it’s one of the family.