And no. I don't shop.
What I do is spend the morning cleaning like crazy; the lunch hour picking at various types of pie and eating as many leftover sweet potatoes as possible; and the afternoon redecorating the house for Christmas. It is the only holiday I redecorate for. I think it is the only way to make the dark winter afternoons bearable. If all is so cozy and inviting inside it is really okay if Mother Nature is not giving us her very best.
This afternoon while decorating the Christmas tree I have felt very reflective. Plantboy and I right now live in a culture where people tend to get married a little bit later, if they do, and many people have at least one marriage over and done by our age. It has lately occurred to me that we have been together a long time. And in a good way. Many of my most pleasant memories now include Plantboy and our kids. Though these more recent delights have certainly not supplanted the best days from my own childhood, they seem now to carry equal, formative weight.
The story of that life together is told in our Christmas tree. The first year we were married, I insisted on a tree though there was no money for it. We bought a very fat tree from the carnies in the parking lot at Smith's in Logan. It would hardly take an ornament it was so full, but no worries. There really weren't ornaments. There was a pathetic strand of lights. There was a smattering of handmade ornaments--felt, buttons and white thread--I made at Homemaking (Relief Society) that year for probably a quarter apiece. There were pinecones with satin ribbon hot-glued onto them to make them festive. There were also ribbons. I had seen somewhere, no doubt, that decorating the tree tips with ribbons was enormously popular that year, and decided it was an inexpensive look to replicate. I tied gold and red ribbons to the tree.
Just as I have done every year since. The same ribbons. The same felt ornaments. The same pinecones.
And I remember. I remember the hideous ornaments from childhood that mom insisted we hang on the tree each year. The felt reindeer in olive green with the little bit of tinsel and a brassy bell. The little falling-apart soldiers made from what might have been spools of thread. Also olive green, bless their little hearts. Each year, when the ornaments came out, there was the story of that first poverty-Christmas my parents had together. We would groan and hang them anyway, along with all the other ornaments collected and made over the years. The ornaments that told the story of my family. It was a story I didn't understand very well for a long time. My mother's childhood was turbulent, at best, and her own brightest memories all involved Christmas lights and a single Christmas record. That first Christmas that she and Bean Boy spent together was her attempt to bring with her the best of her childhood into a new life. That simple tradition, decorating a Christmas tree, was her way of saying that she would do everything in her power to be a good wife and mother.
It is mine and Plantboy's 13th married Christmas together. And today I felt the story of my own little family told in those ornaments--crafted by mine or grubby, gluey patties as gifts for mom and dad; collected from neighbors and friends and church; purchased on end of season sales and rediscovered the next year like early gifts; treasured and put away carefully year in and year out. There is hardly room to fit our ornaments on my $5 garage sale tree (another lovely Christmas story that will keep). We have had to move it more central to the room and out of the corner so that it can be decorated all around.
As we finished our tree tonight, my tender-hearted almost seven year old (the best Christmas gift I ever received) said, "Tonight, let's turn out all the lights except the tree and sit around it." I suggested we should do so while we read the scriptures. He smiled broadly and said, "Great idea. It will help me to be reverent." I thought of my own mother, huddled under the Christmas tree while a record of Christmas songs played in the background, seeking to escape the myriad things that were hard for a little girl to deal with. What a lovely thought for that little girl's grandson to carry in his heart. It is a time of year to feel reverent. And while I know it will be hectic: there is a ladies' tea to host, a birthday party to put together, presents to buy and wrap, finals to be finished, a trip to Colorado to plan--I also know that every night, for at least a few minutes, I will turn out all of the lights except the low lamps and take my own turn to sit by the tree and feel the goodness of a single baby and His power to change the world. I will feel reverent. I will remember.