Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas--A Tree Full of Memories

"Dear Lord, don't let
The glowing tree, 
The gleaming candles,
The blaring music
Keep us from seeing One Star,
From hearing One song,
From finding One Child.
Within the hectic season we have made,
Let us find that quiet hilltop,
Hear the angel voices,
Bow before the manger,
And celebrate Love's birth."
  --Joan Eheart Cinelli, Christmas, 1984

Just last week we went through our annual ordeal of putting up the Christmas tree. This season has a way of reorganizing our priorities. We found ourselves moving furniture around, rearranging plants, and digging through our peculiar Christmas treasures in the attic. Dusting off boxes of all sizes, hauling balls and ribbons and lights and finally the bits and pieces of what would be our seven-foot Christmas tree.

Next came the ordeal of trying to decide what piece of the artificial tree went where.  But that was not the hard part. Connecting the lights on the tree took some time. When we thought we were finished we turned on the tree—and half the lights did not work. We crawled around looking for loose connections but realized half the bulbs on our supposed tree-with-lights were burned out. So—off to the store I went twice to get lights to string on our already semi-lighted tree. After the new lights were in twisted around the tree we began to open the boxes. It was like a treasure hunt for what we discovered in box after box were bits and pieces of our lives.

We were in a time warp. Not just this dull-grey morning but way, way back to other times and other places. Some of those boxes unearthed balls and trinkets that our parents had carefully placed on their trees some before we were born. And then came the little ornaments our children had made when they were young. A tiny star fashioned out of dough made by a then four-year-old. An ornament of birdseed and ribbon he brought home one day from his pre-school. We unpacked the early days of our marriage really. The K-Mart nativity figures. Mary with a hole in her back. Our son would run through the house with the tiny flying Jesus swooping up and down in his hands. The decorations of our over-fifty years. The beautiful hand-made ornaments by the kind lady who hobbled across the street one day and handed us this package. “When you place them on the tree,” she said, “remember me.” Oh, Jeanette you are still remembered. My wife held us this beautiful golden ball—and recalled that one of her piano students had made it for her. We found the beautiful birds, some almost as big as your hand that we had bought in the after-Christmas sale. We unearthed the silver bells our good friend gave us year after year. And though he died much too soon—we treasure his gifts and his memory. On and on it went—box after box, tissue paper flying. These are the tiny fragments of our lives.

Finally we were through decorating the tree. And so after the boxes were put aside and the tissue paper was consigned to the attic—it was dark when we turned on the lights. And what we saw before us was wonderful and breathtaking. A tree full of memories that took us back to other times and other places. As the tree just shimmered we thanked God for it all—the places, the faces—the times of our lives—memories, precious memories.  One day before too long it will all come down and we will get the house back to normal. But right now, at this Christmas stopping off place—we remember as we stand before our tree—and we are glad.

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