I love my Christmas tree.  Really and truly love it.  I remember as a child, how excited I was to put up our fake tree every year.  In retrospect, it was really cheesy.  It didn’t look real, or smell real, but it was ours.  Filled with the ornaments we were given or made at home or in school. Colored lights and tinsel garland.  It was very shiny. I remember reminiscing with my brother on each ornament we hung, special and filled with memories of joy.

After college, I moved across the country with my boyfriend who was in the Navy (now my husband) for a year. At Christmastime, we had very little money, but that would not stop me from getting a tree and enjoying every moment of it.  We had a beautiful tree, filled with inexpensive bulbs from Target, white lights and one special ornament I bought that would begin our tradition.  A Precious Moments boy and girl with the boy holding mistletoe over the girl’s head, putting the moves on her, as only a Precious Moments figurine can.  I prominently displayed it in the front so I could see it when I stared at the tree each night.

After my husband and I married, we received more ornaments from friends and family, symbolic of memories we shared or interests we had.  Each chosen with thoughtfulness and consideration.  When our own family expanded with the birth of our daughter, the ornament collection did as well.  Baby’s First Christmas, ornaments with her name, and the tradition I started with giving her angels each year which symbolized how she showed me the way to my heart when she came into my life.  For my son, it was stars, which symbolized the bright and hopeful glow he shines that helps me clearly see my path.

Each year, a new star and angel adorn my tree.  Each year a new craft makes its way as well.  Homemade ornaments made at daycare, school or at home, which represent the children’s development and creativity.  Hand prints made into antlers, turkeys or wreathes.  Glitter, paint and crayon decorating both inside and outside the lines.  Beautiful…every single one.  Ornaments from Disney World, the Outer Banks and Santa’s Village, New York Jets bulbs, framed mini pictures, silly moose, Santa in various forms and the dog angel as a reminder of a pet no longer with us.

Our tree is a decoration, symbolic of the Christmas season, but to me, it is the scrapbook of our life as a family.  A Family Tree.  Memories hang on each branch.  Reminders of our life together, of moments that blend our hopes, dreams and the experiences which keep us united. Always changing, always growing, it looks a little different each year, yet at the core, it is exactly the same.  As we decorate, we tell stories of each one.

“Remember my teacher gave me this gingerbread man? I was out sick that day.”

“I made this at Miss Susan’s. Isn’t it cute? I had so much fun there.”

“This was my little drummer boy from when I was a little boy that hung on my family’s tree.”

“This was from one of my former students who apparently thought I resemble a crazy monkey.”

They have different places on the tree each year, some high, some low, depending on how likely I think my son will break it.  But their stories remain the same, as does their value.  Except for the Precious Moments little boy and girl.  It is hung front and center on the tree, its placement special and pronounced.  As my favorite ornament, the first page of our scrapbook, it is the one that I hold most dear.

Always before I am ready, its time for the scrapbook to be put away.  Wrap up the memories and preserve them for next year’s display.  But for today, I will stare at the tree, relish in my gratitude, and appreciate its reminders of our joy, our changes, our core and our unity. Our Family Tree.