A House with Two Trees

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer


Crystal treeADSCN8572 friend and I were discussing Christmas trees recently. She asked if I have a theme tree, and I do. I started to collect cut-crystal ornaments from Nova Scotian Crystal Company around the time I met my husband. There  are a dozen balls now, one for every year we’ve been together. A few Christmases ago, he surprised me with a new tree by our picture window upstairs, and we fill it with these beautiful works of art, blown glass icicles, accents of tiny red and gold bulbs, all hung with red ribbon. Though I usually work in my office, when the tree is up I spend mornings in the living room where my delight reflects his the day he presented it to me. I’m easily distracted from my work because I find myself mentally walking through the years of our life together. That tree causes me to quiet, reflect and listen.

Before that tree goes up, however, there are moments when I question the wisdom of decorating. It takes time and energy that frankly some days I’m convinced I don’t have. Perhaps like me, you’ve protested against the demands of the season, things to bake, shopping lists to make, gifts to find, events to attend, volunteer opportunities, all in addition to our jobs and the mundane tasks of a normal day.

All these things get in the way of being still and present.  Advent is easily abandoned in the many things we think we are supposed to be doing (though who gets to decide that?).

Yet every year, when my husband gets down on his creaky all-fours to retrieve the ornament boxes and we pull out each treasure, I’m reminded of why we make the effort.

The ornaments we hang on our trees are snapshots of our lives.

Every year, the new crystal piece is given a place of honour at the top of the fragile tree. I imagine what it will look like in fifty years. I am blessed with that possibility. But if we only have 12 years together, the tree provides a tangible reminder of every DSCN8567one. The etchings on each 4-inch ball are as unique and precious as the year it represents together. They require thoughtful handling and protection from outside sources–much like our marriage does.

Downstairs in our family room, our more casual hodge-podge tree captures the gifts of friends who painted their hearts on tiny canvases. There are reminders of trips to Europe and across North America. Collectable castings from Amos Pewter, and ornaments hand crafted by local artisans often spark conversations of “remember when.”

There are also reminders of friends and family we no longer see, sparking grief at their loss but joy too in having had the privilege of knowing them. I struggle in expecting more loss soon, knowing I can’t hold on to loved ones who are wrestling with the whole business of living just because I want to hold them back from the business of dying.

Sometimes an ornament will remind me of friend-filled moments, during times that somehow seemed simpler but never really were. I even hang an ornament that reminds of the defining moment when I began the journey of making  significant changes in my life. It’s good to realize how content I am now, even though getting there required more than a handful of heartbreaking decisions.

I guess that’s why we have traditions, really. Life is tempered with equal measures of joy and sorrow, though it feels like the balance is skewed sometimes. Where we’ve been, and who we were is just as important as where we’re going and who we are.

Maybe even more so.

Do you have favorite ornaments? Tell us about them in the comments. 

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9 thoughts on “A House with Two Trees

  1. Okay, I guess I should go and decorate some more. Well reasoned and beautiful piece. Now, must get out my treasures. Thanks for the perspective shift.

  2. I love your line…The ornaments we hang on our trees are snapshots of our lives. In spite of the work, it is a special time… when you put the old ornaments on the tree. Happy Christmas to you.
    Mary Ellen

    1. To you too, Mary Ellen. I’m just looking at some of our old ornaments–my husband has some his parents had, and I have the very first garland I ever bought. Actually, I wish I’d bought more of it–it’s made of red wooden beads, to look like cranberries. It is special, indeed. Thanks for your note!

  3. Beautiful reflective piece. There were a few years when I couldn’t make myself put up a tree. Not this year! My one tree has mini-themes. There’s the section with plaids and Scotties, the section of cacti and cowboy Santas reflecting our years spent in Texas, owls from my collection taking much of the space, cardinals in memory of my parents, and the overall flow of neutrals and naturals reflecting our life in the woods today. All on a flocked white tree which is probably the only white we will see this Christmas. Loved your post!

    1. Janet, your tree sounds wonderful! I’m also very fond of owls and cardinals, and we have a few of each as well. As for a white Christmas? I’m not sure if we’ll get one or not. Today was warm and much of the snow disappeared. But, there’s still some and you’re right, it does add to the season. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I have almost enough penguin ornaments to have a complete penguin tree. But I have to hang the music ornament I received from my sister Mary Jane. And the ornaments my mother gave me. These treasures remind me of “home.”

    1. yes, that’s just it, Denise–reminders of home. My husband has some from his parents, and I have one from my grandmother. One a little kid made for me, too. But a penguin tree? That’s just awesome! Thanks for letting us know1

  5. Oh, Crystal. I love Christmas trees; and you have two! We only have one; in each house! The one here is full of ornaments; mostly new ones we selected together (red and silver balls), and my favorite Mary Engelbreit ornaments. The one in Utah has Bridger’s ornaments from each of his 19 years of life, and a sampling of the family ornaments I bought as a young wife and mother. I love your theme tree.

    Two lines touched me deeply: ” I struggle in expecting more loss soon, knowing I can’t hold on to loved ones who are wrestling with the whole business of living just because I want to hold them back from the business of dying.” There is a business of dying, isn’t there; which I don’t like to think about, and I don’t like people I love to think about it either. I need to get over that.

    And this: “Where we’ve been, and who we were is just as important as where we’re going and who we are.” Yes. As much as I try to live in the moment, during times of reflection, I allow myself to consider both ends of my life’s spectrum.

    Talk to you soon!

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