Every year, the Christmas tree gets bigger.
When our first daughter was born we got our first tree, a small one we decorated with jewelry and other shiny household whatnots since we didn’t own any ornaments. We didn’t even know we needed to put it in water and by Christmas day, it had shed most of its needles.
Every year, the tree grows fatter like a well-fed creature (a visitation from nature hulking in the living room; a friendly, furry beast), and every year, we accumulate another ornament; some we make, some were gifts, most have stories, and all seem precious to the girls and when we unwrap the decorations, they oooh and aaah as if they were watching fireworks. (See pictures of our tree, below.) In order to maintain that awe and keep up with growing girls the tree must grow, too, like in the Nutcracker ballet when they show Claire shrinking to the size of a mouse by making the tree appear to grow until it towers, engulfing the stage. Soon, we’re going to have to cut a hole in the ceiling to accommodate the thing.
If we didn’t have kids, I doubt we’d do Christmas at all. But kids remind us of the effect of light in darkness, of a bone-deep yearning for warmth and comfort, and how wonderful it is to believe in magic. For dinner last night, we brought our bowls of stew out into the living room and ate in front of the fire. Before bedtime, my little one brought out her blanket and slid herself under the tree so she could look up from the inside. She said it smelled cold in there and it’s true, the scent is bracing and strangely wild.
Here’s a poem by e.e.cummings called little tree that I read to my girls every year:
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
Happy solstice to you!
Which part of the holidays do you like most?