So, I have two elves in my life that have been battling with me for years over having a Christmas Tree in my home. In fact two decades ago they schemed with my Mom and showed up on my doorstep, children, tree and trimmings in tow, to bring me one of their joys of the season. As they were leaving, the dear hearts looked at me and said “You REALLY didn’t want a tree, did you?”. They were right – I could see how loving and sweet it was that they surprised me with this gift, but to me it just highlighted the fact that I was alone.
I don’t think I am a Scrooge. I enjoy the time together over Christmas, the love that people seem able to prioritize and pour out, the gatherings, carols, food (which equates to love in this farmgirl’s vocabulary), and seemingly more open and friendly nature of people this time of year. I am not so much into presents, there were always tons of those under our tree when growing up, but what I wanted was the time of my much older sibblings when they came home….I so longed to be one of those families that sat and played games together, laughing amd enjoying each other’s companionship.
Our family wasn’t really one of those – at least it didn’t feel that way for me as I was much younger and really had nothing in common with the older ines to connect with. Our tree was always decorated perfectly, often corrected by mom, with each string of tinsel hung individually (I wonder what happened to all of those decorations and smile at the memories of finding tinsel everywhere because of the static electricity it would use to “transport itself”). Our family always came together Christmas eve for an early turkey dinner, then the opening of presents. My two nephews and I always had fantastic boots with a brass ornament engraved with our names and the year, each of which is now decorating my tree. Our boots were filled with things that included “the best” socks, new unserwear, a Christmas orange (of course) and those Life Saver storybooks along with other unique little treasures Santa found along the way. Somehow though, amidst all of the presents and decorations I always felt a little heartbroken and left out over the season…probably why my big love language is the gift of time.
High school came along and friends would want to exchange gifts, but we were able to agree (and I was always WAY more excited) about taking the money we would spend on gifts to go for dinner instead to spend time together. That is a tradition that I have maintained with friends for the most part.
So – back to the tree. It always left me a little sad living alone with the thought of a Christmas tree that reminded me of all thise Hallmark movies and cards – something that should be surrounded by family, presents, a lover, time together, cookies and hot cocoa. I had told my little elves that I would rather go out and spend time at someone else’s tree because that way I was not alone.
This year there has been a bit of a shift for me that I wanted to share. I have been feeling very alone since losing my Mom in August. For various reasons (none of them lacking love in any way) I have also “lost” in some ways three of my closest friends /supports / champions / cheerleaders / confidants / comedians / butt-kickers around that same timeframe. I didn’t actually even understand the level of my loss / feelings of abandonment until seeing a new counselor the other day when trying to explain why I was there, who my supports in life were, and what I hope to gain. These three are still in my life, but not on that daily (multiple times a day) basis that had been so integral the last year or so – for now things have changed.
While I was away this year my little elves thought about (and thankfully decided against) surprising me with a setting up a tree for my arrival home. I think I would have felt hijacked – sad again at missing out on fun and time together and with a reminder of that in the middle of my home. But something has changed. As I look at my life with honest appreciation for those in it, I understand that there is much love here surrounding me. It may not be in the same form as it was comfortably in the recent past, but life shifts (much as the star on top of my tree keeps trying to do) and people come and go and come back again similar to the rise and fall of the tides of the ocean.
And so last night with Christmas carols playing, I invited my two elves to come and begin a new tradition with me to help me set up my Christmas tree (what better way than with a little hen party?). We giggled and laughed and were silly while we got confused trying to figure out which branches went where, how to string the lights (who should have to do it and oops when we were suddenly running out of them near the top), which decorations should go where, why trees always seem to get the decorations in one spot on one level. We wore matching pyjama bottoms in a new tradition, we ate together, and we spent an evening visiting and supporting one another in joy. There was a bottle of pink champagne shared, the cork dated and our names written on it and adorning the tree near the star (to be added to each year until I have a tree full of corks strange to likely all but tender memories for me).
My tree has now become a glowing reminder of the love and light that surrounds me. There may be ornaments hidden inside the deep branches (similar, perhaps, to the friends that “disappear” for awhile to take care of themselves or find themselves in a very busy period of their life or are perhaps miles away in this big world of ours), the ornaments that always make me smile and draw my eye because of their sentimental value of love felt in days gone by, the lights that shine and remind me of the love and light within me that reflects out to those around me and mingles with the love and light of others, and the star on top to remind me of the reason for the Christmas season, guiding me and reminding me that I am never truly alone.
My wish for you is that you find yourself surprised at something that once seemed lonely or hurtful for you in some way now brings you the feelings of peace, comfort and love with a warmth that radiates from your own beautiful heart space.
With love, G.