Clash of Concepts

November 29 – Decorate

Decorating our Christmas tree is a big deal to the Margison family. I didn’t realize quite how much until I considered not putting one up. But quick and loud protests affirmed my hopes that decorating a Christmas tree meant something to more than just me.

We always put the tree up together—Rodney, Tyler, Zach and me. When the boys were at school out of state, we waited until we could all be together, even if it was a few days before Christmas. In recent years, we’ve added the boys’ significant others, and maybe, someday, our grandchildren will join in the fun.

Each year is the same routine:

Rodney huffs and puffs as he carries all the totes and decorations into the living room. When he finally has everything gathered and pops open the tree tote, everyone jumps in and starts putting the color-coded branches into the notched trunk—except me, because I’m the official photographer.

Our tree is special because we searched for an artificial one that was just the right height, shape and color for us. We happened to have a little extra money that year and wanted it to be perfect.

The search seemed endless until we found exactly what we had been looking for—except all were gone except the display model.

I—in my infamous and illogical wisdom—was convinced we could fit it in our van. We tugged and shoved and pushed that tree with all the might, energy and focus of the Grinch stuffing trees up chimneys.

Finally, the tree gave in and the door shut tight, leaving the passengers in very tight quarters for the slow 20-mile trip home.

But, once the tree was erected, all efforts were vindicated—it was perfect!

So each year, we pull out our perfect tree, match pieces to the correct colors, fluff the branches and marvel at how gorgeous it still looks.

Next are the lights—white—always white on the tree. We will decorate with colored lights elsewhere, but our tree lights stay white as a representation of Christ.

After many years of experience putting lights on the tree, the Margison men have an efficient system worked out. One camps out under the tree and spins it on its base, while another positions next to the tree and places strands on the branches, while the third stands behind the second to untangle and guide the lights.

Once the lights are on comes the most time-consuming part of the process—unpacking the ornaments and finding the perfect spots for them to rest during the holiday season. Each ornament brings a memory and a story.

There are ornaments the kids made, ones that grandparents bought to commemorate the boys’ first Christmases and those representing hobbies and interests. We have fancy ornaments and homemade ones. We love them all.

After Rodney and I got married, we bought our annual commemorative ornaments on our anniversary—December 17. Through the financially tough times, when money was tight and five dollars for an ornament would have left us broke and destitute, we passed on the ornaments. With time, our tradition regrettably faded away.

Until a few years ago.

On Christmas morning, the boys presented us with an ornament and a story of its meaning—they relaunched the tradition and have continued it since. One day, they will choose annual ornaments for their own homes.

When all the ornaments are on the tree, the final touch is the star—a three-sided construction paper star glued to a toilet paper roll. The boys and my nephew made the star almost 20 years ago, and it’s still “shining” bright.

At last, we plug in the lights and marvel at our beautiful tree—and then, of course, is the obligatory photo of Tyler and Zach in front of it.

The tree stays plugged in all season long and serves as a nightlight to guide us through the house—but especially reminds us that we are a family with memories, traditions and love.

I often stop in front of the tree and smile. I truly have experienced a wonderful life.

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