I believe in Christmas and all the trimmings, and trappings. Growing up we always had at least an 8-foot tree that skimmed the ceiling in our living room. It stood in the center of the living room’s large window so that we and anyone passing by could enjoy it. I loved that, that our tree was there for others to see and enjoy too.

The way my mother decorated the tree is my favorite part of Christmas. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes of ornaments were hauled down from the attic or up from the basement and each person was given a box to begin the hours of decorating that would ensue. As I grew older, I tired of the decorating, but never of the finished product.

Our ornaments came from all over and from almost everyone important in our lives. The ornaments on our tree told storied about our vacations, our milestones, our favorite things, our hobbies, our careers, our activities, and our triumphs. And some were just beautiful. I remember a tiny pair of Japanese slippers that our neighbors brought to us after her year of teaching English in Japan. Then there was a small bird that chirped when you passed by him. He was given to my mom by her best friend even though my mother is terrified of birds. Every time, it chirped as I walked past, I laughed a little to myself.

Our tree was so filled with ornaments after year and years of collecting and 3 children making them at school that people began to describe our tree as the “exploding Christmas tree.” I love that to this day. Our tree was mostly ornaments and lights. No tinsel, no flashiness, and barely a hint of the green Frasier fir needles poking through. Our tree is a story of our lives, our memories that we revisit every year.

This weekend I got a tree for my living room. I’ve had a tree every year that I’ve been away from home, fake one in colleges, real ones since. My mother has begun to whittle down the expansive collection of ornaments and parcel them out to her children. And so, I decorated my tree on Sunday with white lights, and old discarded ornaments from my childhood. None of them are sentimental because my mother kept those. My tree is adorned with the cast-offs, the fillers, but none the less it’s a small tree filled with Christmas and a few stories like the ornaments my aunt made that were featured in Southern Living and one from my solo trip to London. My Christmas tree is beginning to tell its story. I’m sure it will fill up faster that I will realize.

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