I would like to say that is was some earth-shattering change such as discovering that artificial trees are better for the environment or that someone in the family was allergic to the Christmas tree that caused us to consider changing our Christmas tree tradition. But, it was nothing so monumental.
It was the simple fact that our children grew up.
For the twenty-eight Christmases we have been together, my husband and I have traipsed out to find a fresh Christmas tree to bring to our celebration.
Granted, not every year did it entail using a hacksaw. But, we were blessed with that pine fresh scent and 8 months of pine needles everywhere for three decades. After the birth of our first daughter, we would bundle her and eventually her sisters up and head out to the Christmas tree farm. We would carefully select the most beauteous tree for my husband to crawl under, saw down, and haul out to the top of the car.
So many memories…
I remember the year we could not afford a tree. We planned to use the tree money for gifts for our young daughters and just decorate a bough cut from the lower reaches of a tree in our yard. That was nixed by an angry grandma who could not believe we didn’t have a tree on Christmas Eve and dragged us to the gas station to grab one off the lot.
I remember the year my youngest chose an awful looking tree. She named it Bobby Jack (no clue where a three-year-old came up with that). She laid crying under it, refusing to let go of the trunk, while we cut down another one. I remember the mud, the snow, the bitter cold, the sleigh rides, the cocoa, the farms, and then the difficulty in getting teenagers to commit to a day to go as a family to cut down the tree. I remember the year we dressed as the Santa family for our church picture. And, most of all, I remember being together, all of us, for laughter and decorations.
As they jetted off to college and adult life, they still insisted on choosing a tree as a family.
This became increasingly difficult as they live in South Carolina and the Rocky Mountains, flying in at different times. There is seldom enough time to cut it down at Thanksgiving leaving us to try to decorate it on December 23rd. So, after just selecting a tree on a lot at a farm at the last minute for the past three years and failing to completely decorate it, we made the decision: it is time for an artificial tree.
There are many articles on the pros and cons of real and fake. This isn’t that article because at the end of the day, my adjustment isn’t to an artificial tree. I am adjusting to the changes that come to holidays as families form, grow, and eventually change.
I was a Hallmark ornament junkie our first Christmas together. For our second, we were expecting and our tree decorations reflected that. The third and fourth we had new babies, the fifth and sixth toddlers with all that entails. I know that we had multiple tree mishaps until we learned to tie our tree up with fishing line. A tree is never the same after it falls over. I guess I only have the motivation to decorate one tree a year. We have had clear lights, then colored, home and school made ornaments and variations of store bought. The boxes in the basement attesting to the different flavors of trees created by our children throughout the years.
And, so, this year, I don’t think it will be the fresh tree or its smell that I will miss. I surely will not miss sweeping pine needles up until next June. What I miss is the 25 Days of Christmas with my daughters, laughing as we cried at ridiculous, yet similar movie plots. I miss the quick family dinners out after Christmas lights and boxes and bags snuck into the house. I miss the family we used to be. This year, we spent December weekends on college visits with our youngest. Our other daughters are driving in together just before the holiday with significant others joining them for New Years. Our Christmas morning brunch no longer includes my parents because they don’t travel anymore. Our Christmas night dinner at my mother-in-law’s house changed with her health.