Every year we buy a Christmas tree from the local Christmas tree farm down the road. The boys like to go to places they know as this in itself creates memories. ‘Mummy, are the elves still there?’, ‘is the horse still there?’ and so many other little things that they remember that I don’t even seem to notice. For them it’s the little things like colours of tinsel, just how much glitter can one bauble hold and whether that Father Christmas is the real Father Christmas. For me it’s; where am I going to park? Have they all got their gloves on? And making sure they don’t run across the muddy car park in a desperate, overexcited way to hunt for the perfect tree.
Hubbie and I always have ‘discussions’ over the choice of tree. He’s looking for the mother ships of all trees and seems to forget the low ceilinged cottage that we actually live in. He strides over to a tree and usually pronounces that ‘This is the tree!!’ and I look at it and wonder (in wonder too sometimes) at how on earth we would even get it through the door let along into the sitting room. He sees himself sawing branches (like a real man –grr!) to make it fit. I see an odd shaped tree that’s pushed up against the corner to hide it’s defects.
This year it seemed we all saw the tree at the same time. I resisted my usual over emotional attachment to the tree and, for once, I didn’t give it a name. It was perfect, the boys faces lit up and Hubbie did shout rather too loudly ‘This is the tree!’ Some things never change it seems. Last year we carried it to pay, this year it was carried for us. It was bagged up and we stuffed it into the boot. One son’s foot was resting on it, another could touch it with his hand to keep it safe. We were on our way home.
We put the tree in the outhouse for the branches to drop –Hubbie has read this and as he is a stickler for ‘the right thing’- and the tree stays overnight. The next day, after rugby and a large roast lunch, he dragged it in, put it in the sitting room and said again ‘This is a fab tree!’ in a self-congratulatory way that announces to the rest of us ‘Look at this tree! It’s a fab tree! Didn’t I choose well??’ The boys were excited but we needed our decorations.
We have a box that we keep in the cellar filled with all the decorations for Christmas. It’s a precious box and one that after the photos we would save from a burning building. Memories can be found anywhere and I’ve written about this before, but especially in a simple plastic box stuffed with lots of glittery things. Hubbie digs in to get the lights out –he insists on checking the light and putting them on first so we tend to leave him to his mission as it makes him happy. The boys grab at the gorgeous glittery things telling me ‘I made this last year!!’, ‘Who made this; was it me?’ and they notice the little details of upside down threads and ‘not quite there’ writing that a year on is now 100 times better. I love to see them so excited in their own memories as there really isn’t any other time when they do this. Life is gathering pace each year and the urge to keep moving forward is ever present but this means there aren’t many chances to stop and think about how things change and have changed. In this box they get to see this and I just give them the time they need to enjoy it.
Once Hubbie has grappled with the lights (it’s always a comedy moment worth seeing) and put them on the tree (not having garrotted a small child in the process or tying anyone to the tree) the boys then decorate. I do feel that using the word ‘decorate’ gives a far too gentile mental picture of what actually happens. Each boy grabs as many decorations as they can and then decorates the tree to their age appropriate height. This has meant in the past lots of decorations on the bottom of the tree and not very many on the middle and top and I have poked and prodded and moved decorations about to get less of a ‘scatter gun’ approach to it. This year though at age 8, 5 and 3 they are really doing a good job. I didn’t feel the need to tinkle with their efforts and actually stood back and looked at just how good a job they’d done. The control freak in me (I don’t have so much of an ‘inner goddess’, rather more of a ‘control freak’ inside me) was calm and, most importantly, the boys seemed very pleased.
The lights flashed (I hate flashing lights) and the colours shone (I hate coloured lights) Hubbie breathed out a sigh of contentment and I walked outside to look into the sitting room and see how cosy it looked.
Christmas is changing for all of us in our house. Ollie no longer believes in Father Christmas so this year he’s moving forward with the meaning of Christmas. Tobias now knows what Christmas is and this is the first one he’s really looking forward to with the build getting him more excited each day (‘Is it nearly Christmas???’ is asked everyday) Henry has written his list for the first time ever and is totally absorbed in the whole myth of Father Christmas.
Christmas eve will mean 2 very excited little boys will struggle to sleep through excitement, 1 will stay up with us for the first time and wrap presents but Hubbie and I will still drink too much port, leave the wrapping a little too late and, no doubt, will run out of selotape just when we needed it most. (Masking tape, parcel tape and ribbon have been used in emergency before making our presents ‘quaint’ in their appearance) But this is our Christmas with our memories the way we do it. And when it’s all over for another year I’ll carefully pack the lights away remembering Hubbie and his manic lights obsession, I’ll gently place the boys’ homemade decorations of the past and put with them this year’s batch of glittering loveliness. I’ll put the lid on and climb down into the cellar and there the box will stay for another year when we take it out and reminisce again about teachers, classes, disasters with glue (and glitter, there’s always a glitter disaster!) and they’ll see how great their writing is and marvel at how brilliant they are. The decorations will make their way slightly higher up the tree but it will still have us all standing silently in awe of just how beautiful it is.