It probably takes only a moment to see one of the fundamental characteristics of our family Christmas tree: almost without exception, no two ornaments are alike. In fact, it’s probably one of the oddest assortments of materials, designs and styles, colors and textures, of any home decoration ever seen.
Except, perhaps, for the refrigerator door of a household busy with many young children, or with thoughts of many young grandchildren.
That’s just about what it is. And something more: it is a sign of the seasons of our lives.
The flat paper ornaments are the work of some of our daughters. The big white Christmas tree was made by one of our sons. There’s a rather worn “Baby’s First Christmas” rattle from 1982. There’s a nice Madonna and Child (that’s for Carol) and a reproduction of a Norman Rockwell print of Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim (that’s for me). There’s a heart in a pair of hands, one big, one small, with the words “Celebrate the child your heart always knew” and the year 2003 . . . the year Bakhita Joy spent her few short weeks on this earth with us. And yes, for you Dr. Who fans, there’s a Dalek.
When Carol and I started, back some 37 years ago, there were a small number of personal ornaments and a bunch of simple, store-bought balls. The tree looked nice.
Child number one came along in 1982. That’s when the rattle, shiny and unbroken, took its place on the tree, along with a few more personal items and a few less glass balls.
Another child in 1984. Another, a teenager, in 1986. In 1994, four more kids, then another in 2002 and two more in 2003. Also several cats, four dogs, a parakeet and various other furry creatures.
And there were school projects and Secret Santas and Christmas workshops and gifts and artworks and memories.
Over time, more and more of the ornaments on the tree reflected the changing dimensions and composition of our family. And the glass balls . . . the few that survived . . . well, most were relegated to storage or given away.
None of the ornaments really matter. They simply are impressions from our 37-year journey of family life. What matters isn’t the object, but the object of affection to which it refers.
We can get very wrapped up in wrapping, or shopping, or traveling, or vacationing at this time of year. We also can try too hard (as I so often do) to make the celebration this year perfect, with just the right gifts for all the most important people in our lives.
Nothing wrong with these activities. And nothing wrong with striving for perfection, whether at work, in service or at home.
But it isn’t anything we do, anything we make, anything we buy that actually makes a “perfect” holiday . . . or a good life.
It is one simple thing: love.
Carol and I cherish our eclectic tree because it reminds us of the most important people in our lives, and the most important fact of our relationships: that we love them and that (amazingly enough), they love us, too.
The ornaments aren’t perfect. Neither are the people they evoke.
Neither are we.
But brought together with love and affection, somehow, quirky and busted up and bent as we may be, we become . . . well, perfect. Like our Christmas tree.
Because love is the only perfection there is.
Whatever décor graces your home at this time of year, may it remind you of those you love, and those who love you. May your love, and theirs, be perfect . . . not in the ornamentation, but in the heart.