Two trees

Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practice writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a Horse, a book, stairs – and today The Ornament (I think- I think – that Americans call tree decorations ornaments, so I’ve gone with that.) These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment. Join me?

We’ve got into a rhythm over the decade and more that we’ve been married. Jon drags in the tree, smelling of deep forest, and Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole prophesy ‘it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ over our sound system, and we start to unpack the tree decorations.

The lights are first: a mixture of multi-coloured and the more fashionable twinkling white. Some tasteful silver baubles, and some Ikea straw angels and bells for a Nordic and rustic twist. I direct from the sofa, ensuring the evenness of the display. It never looks like the catalogue ones, exactly, but it’s pretty good.


I remember the Christmas trees of my childhood: sometimes real but more often the plastic one from the loft.

The first ornament I would put up is made of paper. Santa’s eyes and red cheeks are shiny wax crayon, and his beard is cotton wool, matted from years of handling. On the back, it reads ‘by Tanya, aged 5.’ Next is a cup from an empty cardboard egg box, covered in chunky glitter, that comes off all scratchy on your hands. There are a few baubles that match – dark shiny silver like a starling, with glitter on the sharp point. One year we dropped one and the glass splintered everywhere. They were real glass.

Then there were the miniature presents, shiny red paper, a neat ribbon bow. A few of those were left but most had been unwrapped, and hastily and disappointedly rewrapped upon discovering that they contained just air. Any that formerly contained sweets looked like a scrunched up shell. There was tinsel – everywhere, in abundance – the thicker, luxurious gold and silver intermingling with the early ’80s thin-and-dwindling red and blue. My brother and sister would join me in the frenzy of throwing up these various ornaments, assembling our magnificent, chaotic, mongrel tree.


Two trees. Sometimes I feel torn between them.

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14 Responses to Two trees

  1. Elizabeth, @wynnegraceappears 4th December, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Isn’t it amazing the memories in this one tradition of Christmas. How it holds so many chapters of our very lives. This is beautiful friend. Yes the tension between childhood and adulthood, being raised in one home and living out our married lives in another with new traditions. I love your heart and voice and I love being in Community with you at Ambers

  2. Kath 4th December, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    “the frenzy of throwing up these various ornaments, assembling our magnificent, chaotic, mongrel tree.” Yes, that’s tree decorating at our house!
    It’s incredible how the ornaments are vessels for so many memories isn’t it?

  3. Ashley @ Draw Near 4th December, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    Tanya, what a free post. I so enjoyed reading of your thoughts and memories and the memories of others (sweet and difficult) here in the comments. Memories can be such dear friends at Christmas and such painful companions. Thank you for touching on both and the tension so many of us grownups find in this time of year.

  4. Jillie 4th December, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    Hi Tanya…I enjoyed this post very much. It’s always nice to hear of other people’s traditions at Christmas. Unfortunately, in my home growing up, sometimes the putting-up of the tree was the happiest part of the entire season. Even then, my Dad was such a perfectionist that we children seldom did anything to his liking and he would often re-do what we had done. Alcohol played a huge part in every Christmas Eve, and I or my older brother would often end up wrapping gifts at the last minute when my Mother didn’t have everything done and ready. She would be too inebriated to do it herself. And sadly, Christ was barely mentioned, if at all, during the season of His birth.
    Thanks be to God that I finally learned in my 23rd year what CHRISTmas is all about. I raised my two children to know the Christ of Christmas, and we have never had alcohol as a factor in our Christmas Eves! Or any of the holiday. Alcohol ‘runs’ so deep in so many families at Christmas, but because of Him, the cycle can be broken, amen?
    Now that my daughter is married and having her own Christmases, she says I’m now ‘allowed’ to have my ‘designer tree’. She says I don’t have to have those silly little ornaments they made when they were little. I don’t have a ‘designer tree’ but it does look ‘different’ from years ago. Sometimes I miss those silly little ornaments.
    Praying you feel stronger soon Tanya.

  5. Lynn 3rd December, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    I wonder at the modern trend of changing your tree baubles (or ornaments) every year to keep up with ‘fashion’. I fear people are missing out on building layers of memories on their tree. Every year for 21 years we have layered our tree with the same ornaments with two ew additions as we take our kids to choose one ornament each to add to the tree. This ‘tradition’ creates anticipation so we can talk about advent. Then as they unwrap the previous years ornaments there’s the cry of ‘I remember…’ And we can remember what we are truly celebrating at Christmas time.

    • Tanya 3rd December, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

      I really love your tradition! The gift of being able to say ‘I remember’, and having layers of memories, as we remember what God has done for us – that’s beautiful. And way better than anything Pinteresty. Love it!

  6. Janice 3rd December, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Tanya, what do you guys call ornaments? I feel like it’s UK-ish to call them baubles or something. 🙂

    We just put our tree up yesterday. We found a tree farm near our new home and went to cut one down. It’s such a difference for us and the kids. I feel like my husband and I are always trying to make something feel traditional. We hem and haw about whether the Christmas Tree Farm is cozy enough or too commercial, if we have too many or too few handmade ornaments, whether we forgot to put the chrismas music on while we decorated since I don’t have a good place to play it in the new house…And the kids just had a ball. Everything wonderful and christmassy. I wish I could get a hold of that. I think that’s what I think of when I remember ours from my childhood. How simple and christmassy it was.

    Beautiful post, as always.

    • Tanya 3rd December, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

      I think we call them tree decorations in general and baubles in specific (those shiny things) rather than ornaments? (I say ‘we’, but it may just be me!!) Do you say baubles?? This is weird – separated by a common language!

      It’s really nice to hear about your Christmas preparations. I feel like I’m sensing a bit of yearning (and sadness? tiredness?) from you…hoping that God speaks to you and draws near in this season. Much love xx

  7. Joy Lenton 3rd December, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Nostalgia, memories and love linger on. Sometimes all is takes is a scent of pine or a glimpse of a shiny bauble. The best of the past mingles with the best of the present and all the shades in between. Thanks for triggering our own thoughts of family celebrations, Tanya, with this delightful glimpse into your own. Love and blessings:)

    • Tanya 3rd December, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

      I’m glad it triggered your own recollections! You write so well, Joy – you should join in with us on Mondays for concrete words – write and see where it takes you!

      Thanks, as ever, for your encouragement. 🙂

  8. Mia 3rd December, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    Hi dear Tanya
    I missed you at FMF last week and was concerned that you might not be well! So glad when I saw you smiling at us at Amber’s today. Yes, Xmas becomes like a rhythm, but I fear that it has been so commercialized. May we never forget the simplicity of the stable.
    Hugs to you

    • Tanya 3rd December, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

      thank you! yes – I have been a little more run down, tired, and needing to take it easy recently. Thank you for noticing! So it’s nice that FMF is taking a break till January now. I thought that I wouldn’t join in the concrete words this month, but then I gave myself five minutes, and felt good for having made myself write something today! And was good to see you over with Amber too – it’s fun, isn’t it!

      It can be so easy to over-complicate things at Christmas, you’re right. There is so much joy in being with family and friends, and even in the remembering of the goodness of God, the miracle of Immanuel. Much love x

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