“There's a lot of these sequin covered satellite things,” Scott says, eyeing the Christmas ornaments that I collected as a child, my mom gave me the box once I got married.
“They're called 'space balls,'” I correct him, as if that name makes them any better. I don't know if that's their official name but that is what my family called them. My mother made Christmas ornaments all throughout our childhood, I remember each year going through the ritual of picking a new one, my mom would place them all in a dish and we would take turns selecting a new sequined satin ball. We each have boxes of ornaments inherited from our mother's. Scott's mostly consist of Santa performing various athletic endeavors. My favorite was the weight lifting Santa. Emma collected them out of boxes and began playing an elaborate game pretend with the Santa ornaments and our Nativity set that we purchased in Kenya. As Scott unfolded it from the paper, I looked up and winced,
“She's going to play with that isn't she?” I ask. He nods, “I'm just going to have to get over it, aren't I?” He nods.
We decided to only put on the ornaments that we have purchased during our years of marriage. Up went the aspen leaf from the Garden of the Gods. Up went the red and green beaded stars from South Africa. Up went the red glass star purchased in Wheaton during wedding preparations. Up went the sand dollar from Bearskin Neck. Up went the sweet pea ornament from my mother, signifying Emma's first Christmas. A few more stars came out,
“Huh, apparently I like red stars,” I mused. I do like stars. And angels. Of all the Christmas symbols they seem a bit more pure. When I taught art in Kenya when Christmas time rolled around I struggled to find art projects that weren't wrapped in our cultural traditions. I felt the sun beat hot on my shoulders as I watched other classes cut out snowflakes from paper, and color in pictures of reindeer. Most of these children would never see a snowflake in their life. Come to think of it I never saw a real snowflake until I was an adult. As I extricated anything to do with the winter and pared down all the Santa myths I was left with stars and angels.
As we decorated I realized all the things we didn't have; no tree skirt, no tree topper, and really not all that many ornaments.
We did need lights, that was non-negotiable. Off to Target I went. The light aisle was as long as our apartment. My mind shorted out completely. All I wanted was a string of simple white lights. I didn't want globe lights, or light rope, or blue lights. Just simple white lights. At the very end I found my box of simple white lights, I grabbed it and left. My eyes blurred at all the decorations I passed. Purple and silver tree skirts. I've always felt that home decorations should have meaning. Ornaments should be from trips, or meaningful moments, or gifts, not just purchased at a big box store because you thought it was pretty. I thought I should purchase a tree skirt and a tree topper, but I kept walking. Something told me that I wanted them to mean something.
I use the unity candle from our wedding as a Christmas centerpiece. I wrap some tinsel around the candles and it sat for a few days as I thought about 'what it needed.' When Scott trimmed off those inevitable branches from the bottom of the tree I cut off pieces and placed them around the bottom of the bottom of the candlestick. Instant garland. Each time I passed I adjusted or added new ones. Too many adjustments and I found myself muttering,
'F***ing centerpiece,” Martha has a headache and she doesn't know why. Why so much stress over a centerpiece that only my family is going to see?
I keep think about what amazing thing I can do to make this time of the year special for my daughters. The other day I pulled out a stack of Christmas books from the closet and plunked down to read with Emma. I kept thinking I needed more. But there, I just did it. I made it special, by just saving those for this time of year, they're special. Maybe it's not in an elaborate ritual but just in an object. Each year this object comes out, and that makes this time of year special.
The other day at Bible study the air buzzed with stress. The holidays had set in, and we were all amped up on the energy of 'getting things done.' I could feel the snap. It was awful.
We need to pare it down. Just angels and stars. Just meaning. Why all the centerpieces and Santas? Can we do it, though? Every time I suggest to simplify, less cards, less food, less, just less, I get shrugged off, as if I'm crazy.
Why are we addicted to this? Sometimes I can feel grinchy-ness infect my heart. I don't love Christmas music. Don't doubt my salvation just because I don't love Rudolph. Please. Why are addicted to all this fatness? Peppermint mochas and pine scented candles. Is this necessary to celebrate the birth of Jesus?
I'm going to be crazy all by myself. Money limits on how much we spend on each other. One gift for the girls. That centerpiece needs a bow. I won't tie it. I won't. My little tree is naked on the top and on the bottom, no tree skirt and no tree topper. I won't rush out to some local huge corporate store and buy the same topper that will be on the top of millions of other people's trees. I will wait until we stumble across something lovely on one of our travels or moments.
Perhaps a star or an angel.