seeing christmas

Many years ago, a lifetime ago, we cut down our Christmas tree as a family. It was a gigantic thing, too big to fit into our home, and we loved it. It was always white pine. We cut off the top, we cut off the bottom, we tethered it to the wall using guy wires (our version), and we decorated it with abandon -- popcorn strings, cranberries, birds' nests, pine cones, saved ribbons and bows, and all the ornaments of a long family life journey.
Those trees are legend. One Christmas future I will dig out photos of them and share. You won't believe it. They took up the entire wall of the living room, and the whole house smelled of them. Neighbors came to see how big they were. Kids envied them and told their parents they wanted one. We were (affectionately) called crazy, and we didn't mind.
When I moved to Atlanta and began a new life and new traditions, I didn't have a house that would contain such a tree and I had little enthusiasm about cutting down a small one or toting one home. My friend Kay arrived at Christmas and insisted that I needed a fake tree I could haul out year after year, and we duly purchased one at a K-Mart that year, fully lighted and ready to be plugged in.

I was underwhelmed. Still, I put it up, and I kept that tree for five years. But I couldn't help it; I felt cheated.
Then I found this tree by the side of the road in Virginia Highlands in November. A nice young man was selling various iron things, and sold me this seven-foot bird feeder. It's massive, as bird feeders go. But I knew just what to do with it.
I put a candle in the space where the bird seed goes. I draped wooden cranberries from the branches. And I set about creating a space for the memories of a lifetime, the stories of our family; a place of honor to celebrate our ups and downs, our scars and triumphs, and to remember.
With this tree up in my gathering room, I remember where we come from, who we were, how we hoped and dreamed, what we longed for, each of us, and what happened to us, and it all has purpose.

Here we are, laid out in our grime and glory -- the lean days, the homemade days, the overflowing rich and full days, the blended days, the many firsts, the old guard, the new paradigm, the mix of past and present, the hope for the future. It's all here. A long family life journey... and my journey, too.
I no longer feel cheated.


  1. Debbie, I love the bird tree all decorated for Christmas! Yay!

  2. Yay, indeed! Thanks, Cyndi. So glad you saw it in its previous incarnation!

  3. What a creative Christmas tree. It's modern AND cozy.

  4. I recognize a few ornmaments on that tree, because I have some just like it on my present tree. The bells and the little red one that resembles an upside down pinecone. They are from my childhood as well. Nothing like the tree to send us down memory lane.

  5. I think it's more about the feelings the 'tree' invokes in the people who surround it than what it actually looks like.
    I'm certain your tree invokes the best of Christmas magic and it looks fabulous too.

  6. Yes, it's exactly that, Maureen -- the feelings the tree evokes. The fake tree we had for five years felt just that -- fake. And yet, this bird feeder feels somehow more real. Maybe it's because I chose it myself, and turned it into a little altar of memories. Maybe it was just time.

    I love that pinecone ornament, Sandy.

    And thanks, Catherine, for the cozy comment -- isn't it interesting how something made of old iron can still be cozied up? Gives me hope...


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