Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Christmas tree is the same every year ... but different

'Tis the season for Christmas open houses in the bloggy world, and everyone is admiring everyone's trees.  It is very fun.  So far, my favorites are The Lettered Cottage's tree and Edie's tree.  Showing their pictures here on my little blog would feel kind of like hosting a my Christmas party at someone else's house, so I'll just point out their places and you can visit them yourself.

Our tree is the typical family tree decked out with construction paper, beads, decades-old ornaments, and as only much that fits into only two plastic storage totes.  Our tree pretty much looks the same from year-to-year with a few variations, usually depending on what we're doing that year.  But its very much a tree that is added to over the years, slowly.

I think I've realized something about my house, decorating, and stuff.  I don't change things very often. Once I find a simple look I like, I keep it for a long, long time.  That is part of my goal to slowly ...

(am I learning ... 
yet ... 
that slowly is a favorable word 
in the creation of our home?  
Like the slow-food-movement?) 

... slowly create a simple, long-lasting, creatively put-together house.

Kind of like how 13 years after buying those four little matching ornaments, we had four children.  Amazing!  I wouldn't go backwards or forwards in time, speeding through the years.  I just want to enjoy the slowness.

This year we broke with our 15-year Christmas tradition of finding our $5 tree in the forest, and went to a tree lot on the corner.

We've always made it a day of snow pants and boots, hot cocoa, discussions over the shape and fullness (or lack of) of the natural tree full of character, often with friends or extended family, maybe a hot dog and marshmallow roast, and sweating it out of the cold forest with my husband dragging a very tall tree and me often carrying a toddler (who usually was crying about being stuffed into a snowsuit and boots).  We'd get home in the late afternoon, put the tree in a bucket of water to soak up all the extra water it could, and then wait to decorate it the next evening.

Every year, we declare it is the best tree yet.

I shouldn't say we always go.  After going into the forest and nursing my first newborn at least twice in the car, I have happily stayed home with newborns numbers two, three and four, and with a cup of tea and house of quiet.  So, at least three years, and probably more like four or five, I've stayed home with newborns or toddlers while my husband and bigger kids have the adventure and then come home excitedly to tell me all about it.

This year, the December weekends were filling up with Nutcracker performances, colds and coughs, extra work and a possible road trip, so we decided to get a tree the easy way ... at a tree lot.

No, a new way.  It did feel strange going at night to get our tree.  Always before, we had to be safely out of the forest before dusk and snow fall.  We laughed on the way to the tree lot that this would be like tree-getting in the movies, with a warming fire in the lot and twinkly lights around the fencing.

Yes, a new way to get our tree this year.  Not a forever way, just a new way.


It was a new way to get a tree last year too.

My husband and kids, and a friend and his daughter, cut Christmas trees while visiting our ranch.  That was a favorite tree.

Tears fill my eyes when I think about that now because many of the lovely firs on our ranch and surrounding forest burned to the ground this summer in the forest fire.  That tree-getting time likely won't be duplicated for quite awhile.  Have you ever counted the rings on a Christmas tree from the forest?  Christmas-sized fir trees are like 20 years old.  It takes like, forever.

(Yes, I know in my head that the forest will be pretty in a new way, with wildflowers and new growth but it is sad to lose the old forest.)

I have a dream of planting a perfect little fir in front of our cabin, too small for an indoor tree, to live as our forever Christmas tree.  We will decorate it with LED lights (low energy for our solar-powered place), some natural and beautiful elements like a wispy, dried wildflower garland and birdseed ornaments, and maybe a few shiny baubles too.  Someday.

We thought it was the start of a new tradition, getting our tree on our own ranch.  It wasn't.  It was a one-time thing, and that makes that tree a favorite.


Usually the familiar and sentimental ornaments make tree trimming a tradition.  The year we spent with most of our stuff in storage, we decided not to dig through the storage unit to find our Christmas boxes.

We still got a tree in the forest.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, Christmas tree-capital, we can't imagine having an artificial tree, but who knows, maybe that will be another favorite tree someday too.

I think we still had to buy a new tree stand. Why do stands only last a couple of years?

We still decorated it.  We found box of glass balls and lights in my inlaws' garage.

And then we decked it out with nature and paper.  Pretty silver dollars dried like parchment glowed in front of lights.   Dried roses from a saved Nutcracker bouquet for our little mouse dancer.  We trimmed paper snowflakes an entire morning, and filled in the gaps of our tree with all sizes and designs.

I bought a wooden, red beaded garland to finish off the tree.  After Christmas, when the lights and glass balls were repacked into the garage, the red wooden garland was the only decoration we saved of our own decor.

How could a tree without all of the sentimental ornaments be a favorite?  It was.


So, with a few new Christmas tree traditions in our past already, we drove to a tree lot this year.  Not only was it a lot with pre-cut, perfectly pruned trees, it was a drive-THRU (as the sign proudly advertised).  We couldn't bear to just drive through, so we got out and picked our $30 tree in three minutes, stuffed it in the back of the truck and drove home and set it up in the living room right away.

The tree smells really good, more fragrant than the forest trees we usually get.  I think because it is fuller and probably received regular waterings in a tree farm on the rainy side of Oregon instead of infrequent drinks in a dry forest on the sunny side of Oregon.

We decorated with our usual collection of ornaments.  The kids unpacked their own collections, which include ones made with their handprints, themed ornaments (nature for one son, sports for another son, white ornaments for our daughter) from their great-grandmother, a few homemade by me.

We unwrapped the ready-made collection given to us at our first married Christmas by my husband's mother, a handmade ornament for every year of his growing up years.

Hello darling, 1970s, patchwork bell!

We saw the abandoned attempt our own ornament collection idea --- just a few souvenir ornaments from past vacations.  We tried to weed out the broken ornaments while saving a few to fix.  The crumpled, giant pom-poms we made last year to fill in the well-spaced boughs of our huge, 10 foot tree, were saved for packing tissue for other breakables.

My husband and oldest son put new LED lights on the tree, lights the 12-year-old selected as a shadowy substitute for his favorite tradition of seeking a tree in the forest, his first Christmas with a tree from a parking lot.  Would he have tried to cut the tree this year?

This year it is different tree, full and pretty in its own perfect way, but different from the forest-found trees with imperfect beauty and spaces between boughs showing off their silvery trunks.  It is the tree of  a busy schedule, but full of tradition and the gift of flexibility.


My slow-home movement, the moving around, the waiting for a "forever" home is similar to my Christmas tree stories.  Some tree traditions don't change, some part with tradition partway.

Same tree, different tree.  Same us.

I am grateful.


  1. I like your tree and your traditions. I'd love to go out in the woods to get a tree. Our tradtion is to got to the tree lot. I also use the same stuff for a long time. As I hung the garland and wreaths (artificial), I realized that they were all 13 years old. I love tradition.

    1. Your trees look so pretty. It is fun to get out the same stuff year after year, I agree!

      As much as I love the frequent and creative ideas on blogs, I find comfort and contentment are more important to me right now. So simple and same for me, for now!

  2. I LOVE that you saved a piece from your first tree and the toddler proof tree made me smile!

    May the peace, joy and love of the season be yours all year long!