It was a time for seeing old friends and for thoughts of Christmas through the years. Our daughter, Missy, was home from college, and it was Christmas Tree Decorating Night. Missy chose some soft Christmas music for the background, and my wife, Merry, put out a plate of decorated cookies.
We pulled out all the old friends—the familiar ornaments we’ve collected over the years. There were ornaments that we purchased together early in our marriage, ornaments our daughters had made as children, and ornaments given by my mother.
Merry mentioned that she had visited our newly-married daughter, Bethany, a couple days earlier. “Her tree is beautiful. Everything is new, and all the colors match.” By contrast, she said, “Our tree is decorated in memories.”
As the tree filled up, I thought of some of our memorable Christmases from 28 years of marriage. There was the year of the heat, when we were in southern California and the Santa Ana winds began blowing off the desert on Christmas day. We went for a walk that day and were surprised to see the temperature was over 100 degrees. The very next year, however, we enjoyed a white Christmas at Black Butte Ranch in Oregon with my parents and we watched the snow rise from 18 to 51 inches deep in two days. And then there was the year of the Christmas storm here in Little Rock that encrusted every branch, twig and blade of grass in ice and knocked out the electricity in our home for several days.
I remembered the final Christmas we spent with my grandparents, and the year we visited Merry’s family in Atlanta and the house filled one night with friends, family, singing, and dancing. In 1994 we held a 50th anniversary party for Merry’s parents, who were married on Christmas Eve in 1944. I thought of all the Christmas traditions we dare not break, because Missy won’t let us. I thought of all the times I videotaped our daughters opening presents … you can see them grow from little girls to young women on the video clips of them at Christmas through the years.
Not every Christmas memory is happy. I remember the year Merry and I both came down with food poisoning during a holiday trip to Oregon. And the year her mother returned home from the hospital on Christmas Eve and then had to be rushed back two hours later. Thankfully those years are exceptions.
All these thoughts went through my mind as we finished decorating the tree. The foundation of a marriage is strengthened by years of companionship, shared experiences and favorite traditions. I wondered what ornaments would be on Bethany and David’s tree in 20 years …
And then I heard a strange cracking sound. I looked over to see the Christmas tree falling over on Merry. The plastic stand had broken—we had a tree emergency!
Our efforts to create a makeshift stand failed, and within ten minutes all the ornaments were stripped, and artificial tree branches lay in a heap in the middle of the living room. The soft Christmas music was turned off, and the cookies were forgotten.
As I write these words, I’m getting ready to look for a new tree. Tonight is “Christmas Tree Decorating Night—Round Two.”
Something tells me I’ll be hearing about this Christmas memory for years to come.
Copyright ©2007 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Looking for help or inspiration this Christmas? FamilyLife offers several resources to help your family focus on Christ during your Christmas celebration. The Ever Thine Home® Christmas collection includes ornaments and other decorations help you honor Christ and proclaim your faith. The 12 Names of Christmas™ ornaments are designed to help you teach your children about Jesus is and why He came to live among us. And in When Christmas Came, Barbara Rainey reveals the substance of Christmas in poignant prose and vivid watercolors.