It’s easy to blame 2020 for many a habit or “quirk” as I like to call them, but if we’re honest, a few of those tendencies were already firmly established before this year rolled around and we’d best just own up to it.
Yes, I speak of myself. You’re off the hook.
I have a Christmas problem. I first noticed it when at the age of 10 I took over the family Christmas card correspondence. It was all downhill from there. The music of the season played in my home so often (I tried to keep it under wraps but occasionally it leaked out and gave me away) that my mother famously spoke unto me these now immortal words, “Molly, your children aren’t going to know the meaning of December.” True enough I suppose. I’ll take that.
So today, friends, I give you the family tree and a bit of a story to go with each. I remember every detail of each year and who stood where and what babies were which age and who said what and what gifts came in stockings and which ones were under the tree. Because I don’t know the meaning of December.
Upon the rocking horse in front of the 1963 tree sat a kid unaware of the blessed life she led and would lead. The tree looks mostly disassembled so I’m wondering if it was maybe the day after Christmas and my dad was already “tearing around the dotted line” and had the thing on its way out to the backyard incinerator. You can’t buy memories like that.
Christmas away from home in a rented real estate office in Arkansas with a tree of unknown origin. I’m sure the parents were ramping things up a bit so that the kid felt less uprooted and I’m sure the kid rose to the occasion and displayed outstanding maturity and adaptability. That, as they say, is a joke.
Parents looking happy like this was a change they needed. Kid was oblivious but took this photo anyway with the new camera they provided for her Christmas. Will she ever “get it?” Old photos help.
Okay. We’re going big on this one. A terrible photo but this ’twas the year (’78 or so) that ye olde fire marshal decreed that real trees were no longer welcome in the Rogers Townhouse and though he admired the Herculean effort it took to get that monster in there and decorated, the answer was still “nope.” We got to keep it for the remainder of that season and my dad was proud about his little run-in with the “law.” =)
And along comes Baby #1 with photos in front of the tree. We must not have taken a tree photo her very first Christmas before we moved to this house. Why? Maybe because we got burglarized in that apartment and our camera stolen. But I digress . . .
No reason for this one other than illustrating for you what I’ve lived with all these years.
No smile is wide enough for Christmas tree glee from Baby #2!
“Go get your tree from a tree farm,” they said. “It will be fun when you’re huge pregnant,” they said. It actually was. I think husband threw away all the photos of him down on the ground though trying to get the tree to fall … but not on one of the kids.
Baby #3 decorates. Truthfully it most likely was an attempt to corral him for a minute or two.
Seriously. I’m not kidding.
Kid #2 gets a lift from the uncle to put up the angel. In hindsight I should’ve kept a spreadsheet of whose turn it was every year. Christmas cheer started to leak a little when THAT discussion would start.
Beautiful bedlam. I think it’s still dark outside! We had been in our new house one month. And this photo recently confirmed the year that the Little House on the Prairie book set appeared.
The very next Christmas Baby #4 (Grand Finale) appeared just in time to play Baby Jesus in the Living Christmas Tree. Just try telling me I don’t know the meaning of December. I special ordered a baby for it.
Kid #3 earnestly decorates while the Peter Pan video fanatic sucks her thumb and gets corralled in the high chair for a blessed few minutes. I’m starting to sound like a weary mama . . .
Have to include a couple of my folks and their quirky choices (Dad’s doing) for trees. While their traditional daughter is off doing traditional things they go and get a white tree! Of course it’s beautiful. And why Dad put on his Ph.D regalia I do not know. But I like it.
The year Dad decided they would have only homemade decorations — paper chains and popcorn strings. Mom fussed around and sputtered but she liked it too.
Kid #3 in front of the Sunday School attendance Christmas tree. Guess who his crazy SS teacher was? Poor kid just couldn’t get away from his mother.
This Christmas of 1999 had potential to be hellish. It was the beginning of my ascent (or descent) into actual adulthood at the age of 38. My mother had suddenly stepped into heaven in July. Our youngest was hospitalized in October. And our 8 year old boy nearly lost his life to pneumonia with other complications in December. Details aside, this is the scene we walked into on a dark December 22 night after Bob came to get us from Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and brought us home. My mother-in-law had traveled from Idaho to stay with the other children because we just didn’t know what lay ahead and I was at the hospital four hours away full-time for eleven days. This beautiful, tiny, parsonage living room was so brightly lit and highly decorated that it couldn’t have been more welcoming and comforting than if it were heaven itself. We celebrated big that year even in our mourning for our mother/grandmother. We watched the New Year roll over into a new millenia on TV with our living breathing son sitting between us on the couch. And I knew the meaning of December, Mama.
The youngest is sometimes subject to the whims of older siblings. Somebody stuffed her into big pajamas and slid some pillows in to fatten her up. Thus began a bit of a Christmas problem for this one too. Oh boy . . .
And now we’ve skipped a bunch of years to arrive at this photo because some holidays just don’t make it into family albums. Life gets busy. Complicated. You get it. There was love throughout. Just not a lot of photos of trees I guess. This picture shows my rebellion tree. I didn’t put up old family ornaments that year and used blue on a tree for the first time — also a holdover from my mother who cheerfully hated that color. I sort of freaked out my family who wondered if Mom was going to be all right. Mission accomplished.
Notice who leads the charge at the Christmas tree farms. I’ve relinquished my crown. I’m pretty sure this was the year we said, “Yes” to a tree that we should’ve used better judgement on and tried to steer her away from. We had to cut a significant portion off the trunk and still it touched the ceiling. Fun fact — did you know that hundreds of spiders really like the heat of a living room in which to hatch themselves? Also, I kept the large birds nest that fell out of it for a few years after. It looked cute on my porch. Oi.
I’m still smiling here. And then it started to pour rain. Again, you can’t buy memories like that.
Darling Child #1 on missionary assignment in Ecuador doing a little tree hugging. Hidden in between her and the tree is her own Child #1 due to be born within a few weeks.
Now that’s a reasonably sized tree.
And at her wedding there were many many trees. A couple days beforehand we went in a pouring rainstorm to the tree farm and said to the nice man who wasn’t expecting any business that day, “We need four large trees. How about that one and that one and that one and that one?” He was thrilled. We left with our trees. I checked off that item from the Wedding To Do List and moved on.
This year. Oh, this year. It is most likely unnoticeable to anyone but our immediate family, but that angel on top of this tree-in-progress is our family angel that was on our tree since 1991. It’s nothing special; I think I ordered it from a catalog that was in the workroom at my office (when I should’ve been chaining myself to my desk and paying attention to deadlines). This angel represents a great deal to our family though as it has now moved to its new tree. One of our darling children owns the angel. We have never stopped being a family but the years were hard. We are reunited and the angel is home. We are thankful and praise the Lord who helped all of us over the years and will continue to guide as we tread into this new space.
Christmas Tree 2020. So I have learned to back off on perfection. It’s got malfunctioning lights and wonky branches. I’ve given all the keepsake ornaments to the adult children. The two of us manage to get something put together though that looks peaceful. When I look back on some of the “messy” trees we’ve had over the years (trust me, I didn’t bore you with nearly all our tree pictures, phew!), they look perfect to me. I especially like the ones that were decorated by little people who couldn’t reach very high, resulting in the top 2/3 of the tree being bare. The grandmother in me says I should’ve left it that way and treasured my babies as babies, but of course the mother I was rearranged the tree as soon as the kids were in bed.
The star on our tree has replaced the angel. We bought it as a new start for the two of us when we were on a trip to Leavenworth, Washington to celebrate our 35th anniversary. That’s gleeful Don’t-Know-The-Meaning-of-December Me in the Christmas shop. In July.
Somebody told me many moons ago that a family is based on the foundation of the couple it begins with and that the foundation needs attention and honor all the way along or the family won’t thrive and survive. There must also be something left when the kids are gone. True true true. It’s not easy when the house is full of little ones to see your spouse as you did before the children were there. Or when trouble abounds. When there’s sadness. Or mind boggling busy-ness. Good grief . . . I will never forget the year in our household before our oldest could drive but yet all four were in school and activities. I was employed outside the home to boot. Aye yi yi. Let’s see . . . where was I going with this? Oh yes, Christmas.
We’ll gather around our Christmas tree this year in different shape as a family than we did last year. And last year was different than the year before. Much has taken place. Not just us but the entire world has endured a very strange 2020.
Yet, dear ones, I am mightily encouraged and if I was in any shape to do a cartwheel or two I would! (Now just try and get that image out of your mind.) The God who has reigned since time began is still on the throne. That’s what it comes down to, and though that fact does not make us immune to trouble, it can give us deep and abiding joy! It provides stamina for the journey. We know the beginning of the story and we know the end. The angels don’t sing about just anybody’s coming to earth, you know.
In a few days we will celebrate the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s words — our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace has come! And we will sing. I hope we will sing The First Noel. It’s my this-year’s favorite. And we’ll definitely sing It Came Upon the Midnight Clear because it was my mother’s favorite. She truly loved Christmas. And she knew how to keep it. In December. Around the tree.
Here’s a mix of Midnight Clear and Chris Tomlin’s Love Song that I love. Read along with the lyrics. I especially warm to the idea of “hush the noise and cease the strife.” Oh, Lord, make it so.
Much love and Merry Christmas!
For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of armies will accomplish this.