I sat on the floor, surrounded by tissue paper, slowly unwrapping ornaments. So many ornaments.
We don’t have a designer tree and the decorations aren’t placed with geometrical precision. No professional decorator would allow a fun foam penguin that is missing an eye to hang on her tree. At least two of our ornaments are actually keychains, one is laminated cardstock, and one is an absolutely hideous ceramic bell I painted at VBS in third grade.
I love it. Every year I unpack the ornaments and each one is a memory– a gift. The one that’s been missing a foot since I was a little girl. The one I won in a coloring contest in kindergarten. The one Mom gave me when I went to China. Three glass balls with three little handprints on them. A sheep made out of yarn. My mom makes angel ornaments each year and sends one home with each kid, and one for me. And my parents give us ornaments every year that have to do with our year. And we buy ornaments pretty much every time we take a trip. The kids make them, and people give them to us, and each one is special and makes me smile. Or cry. Sometimes at the same time.
I so love my tree.
It’s getting pretty full, though. This year I left a few off that really weren’t meaningful to me. Last night, as the kids hung their special “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments and the ones they made out of cinnamon dough and the ones with birthday party pictures, they were pretty worried about how full the tree was getting. And then my oldest– my baby who will be thirteen in eleven days– said, “Don’t worry, Mom, when I move out you’ll have more room on the tree.”
Children should not say things like that to their mothers.
I don’t want to spend my days dreading the future, or mourning over partings that haven’t come yet. But today as I sat here in my chair, thanking God for my good life, for His good gifts, Angry Ranger’s comment came back to me. And I thought of how empty that tree will be someday, and I thought about how it stands each Christmas as a memorial of the goodness and faithfulness of my God. And I cried.
I hope my children marry people who love a slightly messy, non-designer tree. To me, it’s the way it should be. Every place I look is a reminder to me that I live a messy, non-designer life, with real people who leave their fingerprints on my windows and on my moments. Someday my kids will take their “baby’s firsts” and the cinnamon man and the popsicle stick reindeer and the little handprints and hang them on their trees and make memories of their own. And when my tree is so much emptier than it is now, I will still be loved by a good and faithful God.
Because everything changes except Him.
And He’s the whole Reason for this season anyway.