Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
Our one and only Christmas tree is all of three and a half feet tall. We bought it right before Christmas the first year we were married. It was on sale and the cheapest tree at Home Depot. We were poor as dirt, but we so badly wanted a tree of our own. Something beautiful and festive to hold our meager assortment of ornaments. Nathan said that colored lights were the only way to go, so those also went in the cart.
I grew up with a fake tree and Nathan grew up with a real one. A real one was neither in the budget nor a possibility space-wise in our tiny apartment. So this miniature faux tree was the best option. That first year, we covered our coffee table with a tablecloth that my Mom had sent us and set the tree on top. We used a plaid blanket as a tree skirt. We arranged the Nativity, also a gift, around the base. Our coffee table did double duty as our dining table, so we ate meals out of our laps that whole December.
The second and third year we were married we had moved into a slightly bigger apartment, but we still had no room for a large tree and we didn’t really think about getting a new one anyway. We used the same tablecloth but covered our bar cart with it instead. We had acquired a few more ornaments; my parents have a collection of ornaments collected from their travels and we had begun that same habit. The plaid blanket remained. We also strung Christmas lights around our sliding door and our kitchen counter (those ultimately stayed all year), and they joined the soft light of our jolly tree. Nothing seemed more romantic or in the spirit of the season than turning all the lights off and cuddling up on the couch under the glow of our little tree.
Now, as we embark on our fourth married Christmas, we live in an actual house with so much more room than our college apartments that it feels absolutely palatial. We certainly have room for a bigger tree, and so many of them were on sale after Thanksgiving that it would have made sense to buy a larger, taller, more impressive tree. But I just couldn’t.
Our tree is the size that many people buy when they want to have a second (or third) tree to set up on a counter or in an entryway or some such thing. It isn’t the size that people use as their one and only holder of ornaments and shelterer of shiny presents. But I love this tree. I set it up by myself this year. Nathan is away for training, and I couldn’t wait to make the house feel like the holidays. I wanted Nathan to come home to a home that felt warm and festive.
As I took it out of the box, fluffed it’s branches, strung the lights, and gingerly hung each ornament, I realized that it might be a few more Christmases before I’m ready to “upgrade” our tree. This humble tree reminds me of the humble beginnings of our marriage- of our little family. Each ornament holds a sweet memory of an adventure shared together or the thoughtful and generous love of someone close to us. The lights are the same ones that have lit our living room with holiday warmth each year. The Nativity nestled beneath it is the first one we were ever given.
This year, our tree sits on the big plastic tub that holds our seasonal decorations. I covered it with the plaid blanket and used a red dish towel as a tree skirt. It’s just a fake tree that we bought for less than 20 dollars, but looking at it makes me feel known and loved and warm and welcome.
Someday its branches will sag under the weight of more ornaments than it was designed to hold. Perhaps its synthetic needles will begin to get fuzzy around the edges. But this tree and I are in it for the long haul. There will likely be a Christmas when it feels right to bring home a taller, more robust tree, but even in that year our first little tree will still have a place in our home.
Sure a bigger tree would be more impressive, and it wouldn’t have to sit on top of a plastic bin, but this tree is beautiful and it is impressive because of what it means to us. I can’t imagine anything else.