Life is a surprise, or as Forest put it: A box of chocolates. You can’t always guess what you will get.
As I was decorating the tree this week, I had to acknowledge to myself how the things that we tightly hold has absolute truths can change. I am one of those purists when it comes to my Christmas Trees. They need to be real, they need to have the decorations that mean something and carry a story with them and it shouldn’t have too much tinsel (or any in my book, but that is a fight I’ve never won). I battled Ted for years about not putting bubble lights on the tree as I considered them to be gaudy and unrefined. I won that fight for several years until he found an antique set that most closely resembled the ones of his youth and could show me that it was a call back to the ages of people putting real candles in their trees to illuminate the tree in winter’s darkest hours.
Fun Fact (or just possibility in this case): It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens.
So in this year of my world being shaken up like a snow globe and me awaiting to see where the flakes will land, I am finding myself decorating a pre-lit artificial tree! How does this happen to a gal that is too frugal and too headstrong to ever get an artificial tree? Let me tell you.
It is a combination of factors really. Recently the neighbor who lived next to us for our first twenty plus years in Evergreen has also died and left to me the remainder of her personal belongings – why is a long and sad story for another time. She was so special to us that for years, we spent every Christmas Eve over there having delectable food and treats and the boys would open gifts from them. When young, the boys would stop in at her house nearly every day on the way home from school. It was one of their safe havens growing up.
So, after clearing out her small room at the last of the assisted living facilities she had been in, as well as her small storage unit, I’ve been left going through the remnants of what she demanded to be kept as the sizes of her accommodations shrunk along with her bank accounts. Among the boxes of personal items in the storage unit was her pre-lit Christmas tree. It sat on the deck in it’s large red bag for a week or so as I wasn’t sure if it should go into the give-away pile or the sell pile. I decided this week that I should at least set it up and see if it was worthy of either pile. She kept quality items, so I was hopeful it still was in good enough shape to make one of the classifications.
It is interesting the things that hold emotional energy for you when someone you love passes away. I opened the tree with pure curiosity as I had never assembled an artificial tree in my scores of years on this earth. Upon getting it quickly assembled – just three sections to piece and plug into one another – I marveled at how easy it was. There was one portion of the lowest section of the tree where the lights were not illuminated, but I felt certain that I could get help from someone familiar with these in finding the issue. As I straightened out some of the fake bows that had been smooshed and bent in it’s many moves in the past several years, I was transported back to how beautifully Barbara and Valerie had decorated this tree in the years that it was next door. Having never put the lights on our own tree – Ted never allowed anyone to mess with the lights as he had his own specific method – I began to ponder using this tree. It would eliminate half of the work (as it was already up and lit) and the need for daily watering. Having it already associated with special memories also took the negativity out of it being not from the forest around us.
Traci came over to assess the bad light sections and while we found a few broken bulbs and replaced them, we still had a bad section. even after and after checking the fuses and rest of the wiring. Short of testing every bulb, we decided to leave it for another day. I awoke at 2 am – as is pretty normal for me – and googled what other people do when sections of their pre-lit trees go out. Turns out there is a handy dandy tool that does that very task. I found the “light keeper pro” at one of the Home Depot’s near Galen and Ciara’s and since I had to meet up with them anyway, I decided to grab one of the last in stock that was there.
I can honestly say that it does indeed do as it advertises and after locating 3 different problem bulbs, I quickly had the entire string working in less than 8 minutes of unpacking the tester. So much faster than manually testing each bulb.
I carried the tree upstairs, put it onto the low round table (that was also from Barbara’s things) and with mixed emotions, I began to decorate. Ted and I always got one ornament a year, from either: our travels, or something that was special to us, or just something that made us laugh. I realized that I hadn’t gotten one this year. Sitting here writing this, I think that I’ll have one of the solid black bulbs that we have (Ted liked them for their wonderful reflectiveness of the nearby lights) and have fireworks painted on it as a commemoration of some of Ted’s ashes being shot up in the fourth of July fireworks at the farm pond this past year. It feels perfect and maybe we can do three so that the boys can also have an ornament with fireworks on it as well.
Just another thing I wouldn’t have imagined being on my to do list or part of my orbit. I couldn’t have imagined having a house cat a year ago, having an artificial tree, or going back to having friends and family over for Christmas eve gathering, yet all of those are now what is happening. I’m so very grateful for life to show me that I can evolve and still grow and change. And to have so many people who support me with their thoughts and prayers, time and energy, food and laughter. I couldn’t have had better people – past and present – be a part of my life.
I hope that you too have time to see where life has has given you unimaginable bits of goodness and surprises.
Love and Merry Christmas,