When I was a little girl, my mom did craft shows. I spent most of the selling hours with a babysitter, I guess, but usually she’d let me come see just before the doors opened. The house where it was held would be full of everyone’s Christmas crafts, lit by twinkle lights and smelling like cinnamon and cookies, and it was the closest thing to fairyland.
I want to hand that down to my girls.
The ability to “do Christmas,” to decorate and delight and make it wonderful, isn’t the kind of class that goes on a transcript next to Latin II. (“I don’t think they’ll be impressed you got an A in History of Polka Dots.”) It’s more of a life skill, best learned by hanging out in Decembers with mamas and grandmas. It’s not just the ability to hang swags and tie a killer bow, though those are useful. It takes imagination, love, practice, and knowledge of how your house functions and of the people living in it. Also, you’ll need more strings of lights than you might suppose.
We just helped some friends hunt for a live tree, and then came home and set up ours out of its box. I innovated this year: I put TWO sizes of twinkle lights on it. The novelty! And actually it does make it prettier, more dimensional. I had to raid my balcony twice to come up with lights that glowed the same-ish color, because the blue-white ones just don’t work next to the golden-white ones. I used some café lights that I originally bought for the balcony, but they caused drama out there (boring story) so I went and bought some small-sized twinkle lights for it. Then I dragged those inside too. Now the tree is cute and the balcony has proper outdoor lights that someone gave me, and they’re providentially exactly the right length. I’m grateful.
Once the tree was lit to my satisfaction, the girls were thrilled to get out ornaments. Together we sorted them and put away the ones too fragile for this year. This was your baby ornament! It looks like you made this dinosaur fossil impression last year, do you remember when? Oh, right, it was at that birthday party. These were our wedding decorations. My great-uncle gave me this in… 2001. Grandma sent you that. Aunt Emily has one just like it. Ha, this one is Aunt Emily’s – she must have mine!
This is our family history, in little plastic and glass and ceramic form.
Kate lit up whenever I told her a story about one of her ornaments: “Mine?!” Yes, yours! She gathered hers up in a little handful and sat rocking at the table, gently arranging and admiring them: a ballerina mouse, the blue glitter duck, the little Rudolph.
Meg collected all the animal ornaments, zebra, lion, orange Apatosaurus, mouse, frog in a Sherlock Holmes hat (why? Seriously, why do we even have that?) and immediately started playing an adventure with them.
We hung them up. Meg was tall enough with a stepladder to put ornaments all the way on the top branches, but I did the star. Kate wanted all her favorites at her level. I made sure some made it around to the back side. Meg went back and forth, back and forth, until the tree was fuller than I remember. This tree is decorated.
I don’t put out all my things every year. When something doesn’t suit the current house or my time constraints or my mood, I can remember the Lord Jesus just as well without it. I haven’t put up the most fragile ornaments for years, and probably won’t for several more. Last year, I never got any outside lights put up at all. It’s okay. This year, I decided that the plaid tablecloth would probably get dragged off the table and take an entire meal with it. So the tablecloth is going back into storage.
But I have put up twinkle lights.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images by Carolyn Bales.