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Secrets of Decorating Revealed

by Amy Kenneley

The dangling cord needs a long, hard pull to make the folding stairs come down. Once the top section is lowered, it takes another two flips and we can climb gingerly up the skimpy steps into the attic storage.

Careful! That crossbeam has delivered many a head whack, so you have to duck. I fumble for the light and a dim bulb responds to light up the down-sloping roof beams and the dark crannies piled with boxes of all shapes and sizes. Welcome to all our Christmas' Past.

Stacked in that corner over there are the games that had once cellophane-sparkled under the Christmas tree: the electric hockey, baseball and football games, Operation, Uncle Wiggley and Candyland.

See that tall cylinder box? It is a hodge-podge of Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and Leggos, their necessary chimneys, motors and cranes long since lost. What is left is a bone museum for past extravaganzas which had been assembled-and stumbled over--on many a Christmas Day.

In that small container, still sleeping, is a baby doll, her name I have forgotten but I know our daughter will remember. And look at all the bits and pieces of doll-dom tucked around her-- little white plastic shoes, bows for silvery hair, a tiny red purse with a torn shoulder strap.

But enough of reminiscing-we are on a mission. Today is Deck The Halls Day, and every container of ornaments and house decorations must be down-loaded to the floor below and then spread throughout the house like a red and green lava flow of holiday cheer.

The problem is our theme-less Christmas tree. Every year I vow to get to the next end-of-year sales for some REAL ornaments, things which are all one color, or all one shape or-well, something just shouting "decorator!" But somehow I never get there.

Instead, there is this…this clutter of stuff. The popsicle-stick sled has had a runner missing for how many years? How did our grandson's paper chain swag get so crushed and ripped?

These hand-crocheted stars made by the Women's Guild need a good wash and starching (and haven't I promised to do that since-was it the Clinton or Reagan administration?)

I have to put mom's glass bulbs from the 1950's at the top to be safe, and then the rest can be sprinkled all over, those commemorative balls with glitter titles, and the hokey stuff picked up on trips and roadside rest stops

The "touchables" can go on the lowest branches: the handmade things of paper, paste and young boy-and-girl enthusiasm, brought home from school and produced with great smiles. Little things from years ago, already mashed when first pulled from their bookbags after getting off the school bus.

Funny, but lifting each ornament out of the tissue paper brings back a flood of memories of those Christmases Past: mom draping a tree in cobwebby fiberglass, the Nola bubble lights that always tipped and nodded off-kilter, the year the gingerbread men mysteriously lost their icing, until we surprised the dog one night, his nose in the tree branches, licking off the buttons. Such times bring smiles.

And sadness too-for those we have lost. To lift something of theirs from the box is bittersweet.

And hope-that those far away come home soon. I tie yellow ribbons on for them.

The empty boxes are stacked in the garage and a quick vacuum gets the bits of paper and fuzz off the carpeting. With the tree skirt down, it's time to turn on the lights. Ah, the tree glows, doesn't it? There is flash and twinkle, with small wind chime sounds as we walk past. Beautiful.

I had forgotten how so many different ornaments, some elaborate and some simple, some smartly tricked out and some downright tatty--and all so quirky and different from each other--could come together to make this lovely tree.

I guess it does have a theme after all-"US"

Us-with our faults and virtues.

Us-with our smiles and tears.

Us-more alike than different.

So in this season of trees and light, let us make a simple prayer that all of Us-the Us of family, the Us of U.S., the Us of the Earth, will find a way to value each other's unique and special place as ornaments on the Tree of Life.

Peace, Joy and Love this Holy Season.

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