Our first was small, adorned with only the small red bows that the store had already tied to its tiny branches. We set on our hand-me-down coffee table and opened stockings on Christmas morning, cross-legged on the floor.
Lights and ornaments came. Trees, life-sized ones, came too. But I chose colors and ornaments that looked just-so. This wasn’t my mother’s big-rainbow-bulbed, fat Santa waving from his sled, funky 1970’s mouse munching on what appears to be an LSD inspired watermelon slice, tacky Baby’s first Christmas balls, tree. This was my tree. Simple. Elegant. Small white lights, warm, cranberry and gold and silver tones.
This year, while my children rushed to assault every low hanging branch with however many ornaments they could fit in their fists, I reached to the top and hung this. The smudged oval caught my eye. Our First Christmas 2002.
Hey. Look at that. Ten Christmases. Ten trees. And by the miles I feel on my heart, at least ten thousand memories.
And so began the slipping away of the elegant, twinkling lights with muted, warm tones and carefully placed ornaments.
So began the collecting.
Of course, the simple decorations are still around. This year, Evaline gathered them into her shirt and charged full force to, literally, dump them down into the bottom branches.
See, I’m still here.
Pushed along sometimes. Crowded by what feels like a hundred small elbows crawling over me at three AM and a hundred uncovered coughs (just as I lean in to zipper a coat or tie a shoe), but I am still here.
I am just not who or what or where I thought I would be, once upon a time.
Sort of like this beautiful, twinkling mess of a tree across from me. It’s not what I envision each year, and it’s not Pinterest worthy on any level, but it’s ten years of building a marriage and growing a family. It’s ten years of small, sweet earmarks.
Remember when? Remember how?
And I do.