I had always prided myself on our Christmas trees. Everything from selecting just the right noble fir to placing each light and ornament was done with great care and deliberation. I'd view the tree from multiple angles, adjusting decorations until it looked balanced and full from any spot in the room. Once finished, it sat like a show piece in the front room, its perfection untouched until it finally came time to dismantle it. (Save that year I came home from work to find the tree had toppled over. We don't talk about that year.)
It was a soothing, enjoyable process, done with Christmas music playing and peppermint lattes on the coffee table. And sitting by my sparkly tree in the evenings was one of my favorite parts of Christmas. They were rituals I didn't want to lose when kids entered the picture. In the years before becoming parents, T and I would talk about how to protect our precious trees from future tiny hands. Would we put the tree inside a playpen like my parents had done? Not decorate the bottom branches until the kids were old enough to leave it alone? Forbid anyone from touching it on pain of death? We searched for ways to maintain what we thought was its perfect beauty.
On the couch tonight, writing this, I can peek over the top of my laptop at this year's tree. And, friends, our tree is a hot mess. Or, rather, the bottom third is. It morphs each day into a new combination of color and light. Garland loops haphazardly, five colored balls cluster on a single branch. In one section just shy of the ground, a large homemade angel sits upside down and backward. All of the train ornaments are happily grouped front and center. It is an explosion of asymmetrical chaotic madness, the result of a three-year old's constant meddling. And it turns out I don't care one bit.
Really for the first time this year, Puppy is old enough to not just observe our holiday traditions but participate in them. He jumped around with joy as he "helped" T decide where to hang the outdoor lights. He announces when we should have hot cocoa breaks and where each person should sit. He could barely contain himself the day we decorated the tree, dashing to the table to pull yet another ornament out of the box, squealing, "Oh, Mama, look at this one!" every time. And he has turned the tree into his personal interactive wonderland. Animal ornaments take rides on train ornaments, visiting the land of candy cane lights. Nutcrackers become friends with angels and move closer together on their branches.
I enjoyed my perfect Christmas trees in the past, but it turns out the what I love even more is sharing that joy with my son. Our tree may not be showroom pretty right now, but it is alive with the excitement of a little boy. All because love doesn't hold traditions tight to itself, but opens them up to be reimagined through the eyes of another.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone.