Sunday, November 30, 2008


Thanksgiving is over, and now the houses begin to light up with their festive Christmas lights. I wasn't planning to do much decorating, as I will be leaving shortly to spend 10 days with my daughter when she has a C-section to deliver my new grandson! However, as I was putting something away in my shed today, I noticed a box marked "ceramic Christmas tree", and decided to bring it in, and that would be the extent of my holiday decorating for this year.

The tree was made 35 years ago when my children were very young. I attended a ceramics class one evening a week with a girlfriend as time for myself and a chance to make some homemade Christmas presents. The tree had little openings for light to shine through from the light bulb underneath, and little plastic lights fit in the holes to give the appearance of a lit Christmas tree.

This little tree was part of our holiday tradition. The children looked forward to placing the little lights in the holes each year, and later they were replaced with colored butterflies and birds. Their father and I later divorced, and I gave up home and furniture, but this little ceramic tree followed me as I moved to apartments, townhomes, houses, to Arizona and back to Minnesota, and again back to townhomes and houses. With each move, a new crack or break seemed to occur. Eventually, many of the little lights disappeared and open holes shone light through where the colored birds used to shine. I glued back pieces, stuffed colored paper in holes, and used the remaining birds to fill the holes in the front and left the open holes in the back. A few years ago, my daughter-in-law offered to make me a new ceramic tree after seeing the sad condition of this one, but my son protested "You can't replace THE tree!", and so the tree was saved from the trash bin.

As I unpacked it tonight from it's wrappings, I noticed the tip had broken off and the star had drooped from the summer's heat. I glued the top back on, and put what remained of the birds, butterflies and colored pieces into the the front and sides. I turned the tree to try to hide the large crack and hole....unsuccessfully. As I looked at the sad little tree glowing on my table, I thought that I could look at the crack, or I could just see the pretty lights shining once again from the tree.

Then it dawned on me that this tree really was a family tree. I thought of how our family is divided by miles as we now live in Arizona, Minnesota and Ohio. I thought of how the trauma of change caused it to crack, chip, and break. Yet, though all the changes and bumps that it has gone through, love has been able to be the glue that has held our family together. And like our family, it isn't perfect. There have been some cracks and breaks.....yet love has kept it intact. And when I turned off the lights tonight, I was aware of the cracks and holes, but even more, I loved seeing the soft lights glowing from that tough little tree. Families aren't perfect, and there will always be hurts, disappointments and tears. But a family who truly loves each other, who treasures the good memories, and can still appreciate what they have cracks and all...... have truly received the most wonderful Christmas gifts of all, the gifts of love and family.

Merry Christmas to my wonderful expanding family. And welcome to another year, little ceramic tree. And I hope to see you again for many, many more Christmas seasons. You are beautiful.

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