children a new ornament each advent for the Christmas tree,
with the thought that they would receive their collection
for their first christmas in their own homes.
Last year I gave those ornaments to them for their own trees
(having arrived at 30 something each I had come to the slow conclusion
that it was time).
Of course 7 year old continues the tradition with her yearly ornament
but the tree this year has been transformed in that one gesture from having its
branches overladen to branches very simply adorned.
Those ornaments were not just sparkly things, but years of memories,
carefully chosen to represent each child, their likes and desires, as they grew.
There were foxes and ballerinas, mice in wagons and angels small,
snowmen and St. Nicholas’, and children (3 of a kind)
which inevitably caused them to quickly converge to sort out who’s who!
Their delighted childhood laughter echoes in my memory
as 7 year old opens hers from the advent house
and squeals with pleasure, dancing away until it breaks in her hands...
we gather up the beads that scattered on the floor and
re-thread a skinny snowman arm, a dab of glue and a days rest
working its magic until evening comes. Ready to decorate the tree,
we open the dusty boxes and search
for the little baby Jesus on his red cushion,
first ornament always, laid in the cross of her branches,
and then she gets her funny snowman, places it on the tree –
puts her arm around me as we savor the moment.
We spend the evening unwrapping ornaments
and placing them on the tree, Christmas carols playing
until at last the paper angel is placed on top and we step back
again to check our handiwork. It's then
that those simple branches tug at me, tap right into my
heart - and it is precisely that moment when
quietly 7 year old shares her secret with me,
"It's a beautiful tree...I think if we put on anything more
no one could really see the tree, it would be lost."
I just stood there, felt the warmth of her hand on my back,