When I was a child, our Christmas tree had an interesting stand. It was a re-purposed 100-ounce ketchup can filled with sand and it was tethered to the window/ceiling trim with two pieces of picture-hanging wire. It wasn’t the fanciest of set-ups but it worked and I can’t recall one of those trees ever falling.
This year, in my grown-up house, our Christmas tree is still upright but I can remember a number of occasions in my adult life when trees went from vertical to horizontal in the most dramatic fashion.
It seems every other year a tree comes crashing to earth in the wee hours of the morning startling all in the house out of their slumber. Sometimes it interrupts an intimate dinner party with the sound of years of glass and porcelain memories tinkling and breaking as the weight of the fir branches pressed them to the hardwood floor.
Other times, when everyone arrives home at the end of a busy work/school day, the festive tree is found toppled over the sofa or coffee table, its needles and sap woven into fabric and clinging to all adjacent surfaces.
The sight of ornaments that had been so carefully packed away in tissue and boxes after Christmas each year tree lying in a broken and tangled heap is enough to turn even the most festive Buddy the Elf into a grouchy Grinch.
And, with no climbing cat to blame for the disaster, it is so easy to quickly turn the focus on whichever family member had helped to “secure” the tree in its box-store purchased stand. Surely they must have “known” that the tree would fall and shatter these irreplaceable treasures?
As I sit and sip my morning coffee by the twinkling lights of “Christmas Tree 2017 edition” I can’t help but think of the lessons learned from past falling trees:
- Secure attachments are not mass-produced – they are built at home, just like my dad’s ketchup-can tree stand
- My responses (notice I didn’t say reaction) to the crashing trees of life is as important as the events themselves
- Memories don’t live in glass and porcelain, they are held in my heart and mind
- My irreplaceable treasures aren’t wrapped in tissue and packed in a box, they are the people with whom I share my life
- Sometimes the unexpected and unwanted can have a positive outcome…over the years we’ve lost so many delicate ornaments to crashing trees that now we have a tree that is both child and pet-friendly and we simply don’t worry about it
- There is no such thing as “perfect” – real life is messy and that is wonderful!
With each crashing Christmas tree, I have learned to appreciate the challenges life throws my way. Those lessons taught me about my own resilience and capacity to be courageous when I want to curl up in a ball and cry. The crushed ornaments, disrupted dinners, and broken sleep have helped me remember the importance of the simple pleasures in life and the value of people and experiences over things.
What lessons will you take away this Christmas?
-The Coffee & Conversation Counsellor