Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Awe and Wonder

My Mother was right. Christmas regains some magic when you have kids.

Christmas is my very favorite holiday. I decorate too much, bake too much, spend too much on gifts, and generally have a marvelous time. I sing along to Christmas music in stores, give all my change to the Salvation Army bell-ringers, and wish everyone I see a Merry Christmas even when it's not politically correct. I love the season of giving. But for a few years there I was so busy Having A Life that I seemed unable to go all out.

Now Kiddo is just of an age to start understanding Christmas, at least on a fun celebration standpoint. I find myself wanting to go completely nuts, but a little restricted in how far I can go. And for once it's not money holding me back.

I desperately wanted a Real Christmas Tree this year. Since Kiddo was born we've staged Christmas on top of the entertainment center. It's about four feet high, well out of reach. We had a pretty fiber-optic tree that died two years ago. Last year I just hung a wreath on the wall above the center. It works well enough, but darn it, I really wanted a real tree!

I have ornaments I've had since I was a child, the tree skirt my Grandmother made, miles of garland and lights, and the family Christmas stockings, mine made by an Aunt almost 40 years ago and the rest made by my sister. But our condo, which was great for two people, is far too small for a family of four. To fit a tree in here we'd have to start moving out furniture. Then there's the safety hazards. I'm sure we could get through to Kiddo that the tree is just for looking at, but Baby is pulling himself to standing and putting everything in his mouth, and some how a full-fledged tree just seems like a not-good idea.

So I settled, and started looking for a small artificial tree I could afford.

Thank you Wal-Mart! I found a pre-lit three foot tree for $15. Now, this tree is truly the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of artificial trees. It just barely misses pathetic. There's no way anyone would ever mistake this for a real tree. It's naturally scraggly.

But when Kiddo saw the box, and the bag with unbreakable ornaments I got just to preserve my sanity, you would have thought I'd teleported the Rockefeller Center tree right into our living room.

He helped me fluff up our pathetic little tree, picked out ornaments and held them while I made hanging loops out of button thread (no hooks to step on or be swallowed), and carefully considered where to hang them and which color was next. He helped me tuck Grandma's tree skirt around it and turned off the lights so I could plug it in.

Awe and wonder.

And I'm reminded that it's not about glitz and shine. It's not about racking up the credit card. It's not about competing with the neighbors for the highest December electric bill. We all know this at heart, but sometimes something jumps up and reminds you in a way that just about brings tears to your eyes.

Even if you are not Christian the winter holiday spirit carries loving kindness. It's about family, it's about love, it's about sharing what you have with people you care about, and sharing what you can with people you don't know.

And it's about the shine in a child's eyes the very first time they help you light up a Christmas tree.

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