Skip to main content

Don't Open Till Christmas

   While it was important to me to teach my children the joy found in tradition, I may have inadvertently taught them that change is not a good thing.  As my kids are now in their teens, they have certain expectations of how things are done and will not deviate from the accepted practices of their youth.  Christmas traditions are now set in stone at my house and are under full management of my children.

   Each year, my kids and I put up our family Christmas tree.  My daughter will have already erected a hot pink or glitter covered tree in her room complete with the traditional tree topper tiara because nothing says Christmas like a crown of jewels.  Her tree is decorated with tiny ornaments shaped like shoes and ornaments with pictures of loved family pets.  After her room is all aglow with Christmas lights and glitter we will focus our efforts on the family tree in our living room.  

   There is a very specific method in which we follow to put up this tree.  I will start by climbing into the attic screaming at those below to please catch the giant box or their mother, either of which will be falling from the ceiling at any moment.  I drag the age old box full of branches, which is not only larger than I, but heavier, as well, to the edge of the folding staircase and hope that someone is below to play catch.  The three of us begin sorting branches by length, matching coordinating letters of the alphabet with slots "C"  through "M" in the center pole.  I should have known I was setting myself up for future failure when, years ago, I threw out all of the bottom branches labeled "M".  They were too close to the ground and left no room for gifts or a mother and two children to crawl under the tree and stare up through the branches at all the lights and ornaments, each with their own story.  It is usually about the time we have finished most of the tree that we realize we put all the branches in the wrong slots because we weren't suppose to fill the bottom row.  My children will quickly disappear, leaving me to rework the entire tree, raising each limb one level.  

   After the tree is complete, we tackle lighting.  My son is in charge of untangling all the lights and stretching them out to ensure they work.  While I meticulously place each light so that wires don't show, the kids start crafting their own lighting plans that usually involve decorating my daughter with miniature lights.  Before too long, I have to unwind not only the lights, but the kids, the dog and anyone else who moved too slowly across my living room. 

   After the limbs are in the right place and we have achieved the perfect degree of twinkling, it is time to place the ornaments on the tree.  This is an age old tradition that my children will not share with anyone.  The three of us sit on the living room floor and "oohh" and "aahhhh" as we unpack Hallmark ornaments collected through the years.  The kids remember where each of their ornaments were placed the year before and seek out coveted places on the tree.  The first ornaments to be sought out are two turtles with hinged shells holding signs that say "Don't Open Until Christmas."  Inside is a sleeping turtle waiting for Christmas day. The original turtle belonged to my son.  My daughter had terrible turtle envy as she watched her brother open and close the turtle's shell through the years, regardless of a sign that clearly prohibited such.  Being a good mom, I found an identical ornament on EBay and now we have two turtles, one with a letter A permanently inscribed on the belly for my daughter.  


   Somewhere in our box or ornaments, is a "Hunchback of Notre Dame" ornament.  It has always frightened my daughter, so my son makes sure to hang it as close as possible to her favorite ornament. She will look up with pride to see if her turtle's shell is properly closed and will gasp in horror when she sees the hunched over man suspended from the branch next to her turtle.  It's not long until we have a missing turtle, the scary man is hidden in the back of the tree, someone is in tears and I'm decorating by myself.  


I will stop to remind the kids how much we love decorating the tree and soon we are hanging tiny angels, hand made ornaments and miniature record players that play Christmas Carols.  My son has more ornaments than my daughter because he is older and it doesn't take long before she is on the edge of tears as she believes that he has more special ornaments than she. This is usually another opportune moment for the Hunchback to reappear, this time sitting on a turtle. Tears ensue and I'm hanging ornaments alone again. 

I'll begin a serious hunt to unpack all of my daughter's "special" ornaments so that she will clearly see that she has an equal amount of love hanging from the tree.  After the last of the Hot Wheels ornaments and tiny mice on sleds are hung, we begin hanging all of the ornaments the kids have made through the years.  We have strands of Cheerios and Fruit loops preserved in lacquer and love and paper angels made out of coffee filters.  My daughter has painted a series of wonderful ornaments and my son has many that look like he may have contracted out a team of artists to create. I believe his teachers may have helped him with his ornament making, but the love is still there.    

Before long, we have a tree full of memories that has been born out of years of love and tradition. I suppose my children are right that some things simply cannot be changed. 

Allie's Tree


Popular posts from this blog

The Mink That Made Its Way Home

             When I was five years old, my grandmother would care for me before school each day.  She would turn the stereo console on and play big band music from the 40's.  I remember dressing up in her mink stole as we danced around the living room spinning and twirling to the classics.  She told me that one day the mink would be mine and I hoped that I would be as beautiful as she was wrapped in luxurious mink.     Time, of course, came and went and my grandmother passed away many years ago.  I have often wondered what happened to her mink stole and wished that I could wear it just one more time.  Little did I know, my grandmother had given the stole to her daughter and sometime during the early 80's when fur was not fashionable and we were wearing hideous things like leather pants and spandex, my aunt tossed the mink into the Goodwill bin near her home. She did not know that anyone actually wanted the mink and donated it to charity.  She told me she remembers lo

Peace, Love and What???

  There is nothing more precious than child innocence.  While it appears that this message may, indeed, be upside down, it seems that an upended pink ribbon is a call for better testing for earlier detection of breast cancer.  Who better to deliver such a message than a group of young girls with bright futures ahead of them?  While my daughter actually has no idea that she is holding the poster upside down, her mistake quietly sends a much more powerful message across this field. Who knows, but any one of these young ladies, excited about their part in participating in a campaign of hope, could go on to be the one to discover just such a test or cure.   So even if the symbols are upside down, or even fall to the ground, our youth are learning to be a part of something bigger than themselves and might just one day deliver this message exactly as they innocently displayed this Fall day in their youth.   Picture by Kathi Kolb

Snapped Rabbit

Photo Courtesy of Hershey's    There is almost no greater joy than the pure chocolaty goodness that lies in the rectangular patterns of a Hershey’s bar.  While some people enjoy cigarettes or liquor or even illegal drugs of choice, my addiction lies in the innocence of a candy bar.  It is something that is enjoyed in small pieces, savored, one rectangle at a time.  Whatever genius designed this heavenly creation, divided the bar into 12 miniature rectangles, all looking like a small version of the whole.  It’s mind boggling if you really think about it.  It’s much like putting two mirrors together and seeing into infinity.  With each bite of Hershey’s bar you find more rectangles calling your name.   A wise person knows not to listen to their sirens call, but to snap off only one or two pieces and move on without looking back.   Photo Courtesy of B Jobse    My children know the power of the Hershey’s bar and fully understand that stressful events can bring on the dippi