The kids decorated our tree this year. The whole thing. They strung the lights (and missed an entire bottom section). Actually, they put three different strands of lights on our tree, one white, two colored. Once the lights were up, I pulled the lid off the grey Rubbermaid tub filled with ornaments, and five enthusiastic souls bum-rushed it. I quickly unwrapped tissue covered ornaments, pried tops off tiny boxes, and tried to hand out only the “non-breakable” ones—which somehow they can still manage to break.
In a flurry of movement, they began hanging ornaments in a cluster, front and center. I encouraged them to spread them out, and my oldest two took charge of that. But overall I held in my perfectionistic self–the self that thrives when there is beauty and order, because there was none of that–and I let them do it. Their way.
It’s the first year they’ve done the whole thing, from lights to decorations, and while I cringed a little on the inside, it was the easiest set up we’ve ever had.
After the grey tub was empty (save the ornaments I won’t put on our tree for another 10 years), I stepped back and sat on the farm bench next to my husband. There was nothing for me to do, the kids had officially taken over.
And in that moment, that rare moment when I actually sit down and am able to take in the view before me, I was able to see a different kind of beauty. A real kind of beauty. A beauty I may not have seen had I not stepped back. It wasn’t the beauty of a kid-decorated tree. But the beauty of kids decorating the tree. And I had to ask my husband to take a picture with his phone, because as usual, I couldn’t find mine. And although I know pictures don’t quite capture the moment as I saw it in my mind, I still want to remember.
Remember how they all had their hands in it. How happy they were hanging frosty snowmen and glittery shatterproof orbs. I want to remember how grown my oldest son looked as he stood on the ladder next to the tree. And how the little ones where huddled around the bottom holding onto their popsicle ornaments. Remember them before they cared about their out-of-control hair or wearing nice clothes. When they were oblivious to their appearance and decorated a Christmas tree with great zeal. This is how I will remember them the Christmas of 2018.
Because fifteen fast years from now, it’s all going to be so different. And more than a precisely decorated tree, I’m gonna want these memories in my rolodex, maybe even my photo album, if I can ever be so organized.
So I still haven’t rearranged them. The ornaments, that is. And I don’t think I will. It’s serving as a reminder for me this season. A reminder that real beauty isn’t found on the outside or in coordinated Christmas trees, but in the hearts and lives of the ones we love. It’s reminding me that Christmas isn’t about perfection. So far from it, actually. Christmas is about our need for light in dark places, for hope amid sorrow, and the all-encompassing undying sacrificial love of God embodied in Jesus Christ. And in light of that, it really doesn’t matter much what our trees look like.