I Am My Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree is 3 feet tall. We’ve talked about getting a full-size tree, but we don’t have room. And Adelaide would eat it. We normally have two 3 foot tall trees. One with Adelaide’s birthday theme, and one family tree.

We have always decorated a birthday tree for Adelaide. Poor December baby. It’s about the worst to share a birthday month with Baby Jesus. People try to combine your birthday and Christmas presents. No one can attend your parties, because their December calendars fill up months in advance. (I actually texted our families in August with Adelaide’s birthday party date and an approximate time.) As a consolation prize, Adelaide gets a tree at her party.

But it’s more than that. We didn’t know if Adelaide was going to live. They couldn’t tell us if she was going to grow up. So I wanted to decorate a tree for her birthday, just in case it was her only birthday. And the tradition stuck.

This year, I almost cancelled her party. Like I always do. But I didn’t. And her Breakfast at Tiffany’s tree was beautiful. We had to move it to the kitchen island after Bess tried to hold it. Elizabeth’s love language is physical touch, so she is obsessed with hugging everything. “I’ve got you.” The Christmas tree barely survived its first embrace. I moved it to the kitchen.

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I wasn’t going to decorate the house this year for Christmas, because I’m having a hard time with so many things. Our first Christmas without Bob. My dad tried to commit suicide the day after Christmas when he was exposed as a child molester. Every gift guide for a 4-year-old girl is comprised of 500 things Adelaide can’t do.

And money. December is the hardest month for families with special needs kiddos. Our health savings and tax-free accounts are all used up by now. Medical bills are piling up. We’re counting down the days until tax return to pay everybody off. It’s a crazy cycle…one we are trying to break…but many families are familiar with it. Thankfully, Dave and I are only buying gifts for our children and the matriarchs, so the financial stress of finding/making meaningful gifts for dozens of people (on very limited funds) is no longer an issue.

But Graham asked for decorations this year. And Bess asked for decorations this year. “Mama, where da Chwismas Twee for me? I want pwetty twee pwease.” This was going to cost me nothing but time and energy. So I emptied all the containers out of the closet.

Bam. The first container was all Bob. My carved nativity. All our carved ornaments. I just stood there and sobbed.

I put up some garland. Put up the nativity from Dave’s grandparents. Put up Bob’s ornaments. And decided I was done. We would just keep Adelaide’s tree in the kitchen and call it a year.

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***I promise there is garland in this photo. Our living room at any given moment. Just keepin it real, folks…***

But Bess asked again for a tree. Asked for ‘red Chwismas balls’ on the tree. We didn’t have room for two trees in the kitchen, since our family tree couldn’t take its rightful place on the buffet this year. Bess can reach the buffet by getting on Adelaide’s therapy trampoline. So I started changing out Adelaide’s tree. Bess ate a snack in her highchair while we did it. Clapping and cheering for the ornaments. Then, she fell asleep. And Adelaide fell asleep. And Graham was working outside with Dave.

It was just me and that blasted tree. Crooked. Held up by dried Great Northern beans in a vase I stole from our bedroom. Garland made from old jewelry and quilting thread. Funky homemade ornaments from Graham. Dave’s first Christmas. All our kids’ first Christmases. None of mine survived a Colorado flood that filled our crawl space and destroyed most of my childhood things. But Adelaide’s ornaments help fill it out. Polar bears. Butterflies. Buttons. And now Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And every ornament carries a story of our family.

But I am that tree this year. Not grandiose in any way, wobbly, mismatched, and barely making an appearance this year. Only doing the Christmas-y stuff, because 2/3 of my children are cheering for red and green to throw up all over our house and my only, and favorite, boy believes that it will only snow on Christmas if we have our decorations out.

We have a tree, garland, some nativities, and the most gaudy Truth In The Tinsel crafts you have ever seen. I filled the stuffed animal basket with Christmas toys. I swapped out the bottom shelf books, putting colors and abcs away while we read and reread about Baby Jesus and the gingerbread man and snowmen. On 70 degree days. This December has been drunk.  

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I put half our decorations back into the closet. I looked around and exhaled pretty slowly. I did it. Before I had kids, I spent days decorating every surface of our house for Christmas. Nativities everywhere. Since Adelaide, things have changed. Because things are always changing.

“Awesome! Pwetty! RED! Chwismas pwetties for me? YAY!” Elizabeth was wowed with my most lackluster performance in 32 years.

She talks to the tree while she’s in her highchair. Stretches out her arms as far as she can, “I got you, pwetty twee. I got you.” And it reminds me that our whole family is that tree. Modest, standing,  eclectic, and making an appearance this year. And that’s good enough for 2015.

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Oh, and I got my first “I love you” from Bess. “I love you, Mama, and red Chwismas balls!” She had her tiny arms wrapped around me, patting my back. That sweet, fiery princess. Who babynapped our Savior. By way of creative trampoline positioning…

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