Christina Currie: Eye of the beholder
At Thanksgiving dinner, the girls were running around, waving a lace-trimmed, stuffed heart yelling “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Just pretend, mom,” is what they told me when I tried to explain it was Thanks–giving.
They’re under no such misconception about Christmas — they don’t even want to pretend to be.
We put up the Christmas tree Sunday. The combination of a meticulous mother and two young girls made the process … interesting.
On the first Saturday after New Year’s Day, I carefully pack decorations, winding lights to avoid tangles and cushioning ornaments to prevent breakage.
The girls aren’t quite as particular when we unpack them the first weekend after Thanksgiving. I work layer by layer. They’re like, well, children at Christmas.
The tree wasn’t even up before they had ornaments strewn across the living room and candy canes hanging from branches that weren’t even hanging from the tree.
We have an artificial tree. Even the process of setting it up is exacting. It was the perfect shape that lured me to the fake side, and I’m not willing to give that up for speed.
So, each bough on each branch has to be positioned correctly before that branch can be clipped onto the trunk.
Then, the lights must be added, as each layer of branches is finished so that the lights are exactly where they should be.
Are you getting how frustrating this is for a 4- and 5-year-old?
But they got (were forced) into the spirit of things by selecting their own branches to straighten. They handed them to mommy to put on the tree, and when they turned around to start on another, mommy hurriedly repositioned the boughs.
The second the star was on top, the girls were hanging ornaments. In fact, they nearly had all of them hung by the time I finished straightening the branches that escaped the first inspection.
Had I been doing the decorating, the second red ornament I selected would have been positioned at the opposite side of the first and at the opposite height.
Not only were the girls not observing the rule of opposites, they were violating every Christmas tree-decorating rule in the book (I really don’t know if there is a book, but if there’s not, there should be).
They were clustering ornaments, they were putting more than one on the same branch, they were hanging similar ornaments right next to one another, and there wasn’t a single ornament above the tree’s 4-foot line.
I’m learning. I didn’t say a word until they finished and then diplomatically told them, “mommy didn’t get to put any on.”
Then, I carefully selected the most breakable ornaments and moved them higher on the tree. It took all my self-control to not change their design, but I catch myself subtly rearranging a little at a time.
The girls don’t notice. With the house lights off and the tree’s colored lights sparkling, they think our Christmas tree is the most beautiful tree in the world. They thought that when all the decorations were clustered at the bottom, and they think that now that ornaments are a little more strategically arranged.
To me, that’s the point of Christmas and the beauty of children.
They can — and love to — use adjectives, but there is no judgment in their descriptions. People are beautiful. Monsters are not. That’s it. Cut and dry. Black and white. It is or it isn’t. There is no “would be if …” in the minds of children.
They teach a fine lesson, don’t they? I can think of little else that better reflects the spirit of the holiday.
Our tree isn’t perfect. It reflects the priorities and tastes and whims of two small girls, and that makes it beautiful.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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