Monday, November 28, 2011

What I didn't do: the story of an imperfect Christmas tree.

Several years ago I made one of the most satisfying investments an OCD mom could make: I purchased my very own "grown up" Christmas tree. The eight-foot beauty, complete with fragile decorations, ornate ribbon, and over a thousand twinkling lights has been my child-free, immaculate addition to the Holidays since my children were little. It sits in my living room, also known as the "piano room" because, let's be honest about formal living rooms, there's almost no amount of living that actually happens in there.

So, back to the tree....

In a typical year, the kids and I decorate the entire house together. We stream the banister up the stairs and into the loft with a lighted pine swag and big red ribbons. We adorn our "tall" tree in the family room with what amounts to almost 200 Hallmark ornaments (not to brag, but its a pretty impressive collection, derived from the ornament giving tradition my grandparents started in 1982). We hang six stockings across the family room mantel, plus a couple more on the basement mantel for good measure. All three levels of the house get cluttered up with holly and snowmen and all measure of cutesy holiday joy!

But the living room... the living room is my room! It hosts what I like to think of as the more sophisticated decorations. I've got my small village, my bisque white nativity, and my tree. In a home that boasts the energy - and mess - of four energetic kids, my OCD necessitates the need for me to have control of at very least, my tree! I like to wait for the kids to return to school after Thanksgiving weekend so that I can take the day to put my tree together the "right" way! Yes, the "right" way, because any way that's not my way is not right! I carefully place lights from top to bottom, intricately woven up each and every branch. The result? An immaculate tree with proportional light balanced uniformly from bottom to tip!

Not this year! I woke up Saturday morning to a giddy eleven year old begging me to come see what she'd done. I slipped on my bathrobe and met her in the living room. She'd set up and lit my tree! From a distance, it looked pretty good. I thanked her with a smile. She was so very proud of herself, and I don't blame her, it was quite a feat. Upon closer review I discovered what could best be described as a "web" of lights. I'm not exactly sure what her installation technique was, but it uniformity apparently wasn't important to her. I took in every inch of the tree - noting its imperfections and analyzing its lighting imbalance (it loses umph as it reaches the top), then I did something that surprised not only me, but the elder of my two children:
I left it alone! 

Of course, there was a part of me that wanted to dismantle it and start over. And, I'm sure every time I walk into the room, I will itch to fix one imperfection or another. But, something bigger is at play here. Something that as an OCD mom I have to be consciously mindful of. My beautiful daughter's heart would be broken if I undermined her hard work. This is about so much more than a silly tree. It's about recognizing her effort and celebrating her "gift" to me!

This year as you look at your tree you might think of it's heavenly symbolism or even about the gifts tucked underneath. However, when I look at my tree, I will be reminded of a cute little girl who went above and beyond for her mother.


  1. Don't you love it when our kids "surprise" us? The tree looks beautiful. And it came from the heart. I know your heart is warmed by that. We have a 'naked' tree in our living room right now--will be decorating through the week.

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