Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Christmas Tree

Like pretty much every kid, I LOVED Christmas. My parents always spoiled us during the holidays. Although I hate to show what a manipulative child I was, I have to tell you my Santa Claus story. Around Christmas time when I was about five years old, I caught my dad sneaking in the back door carrying an art easel I had begged Santa for. My eyes lit up, and I asked “Who is that for?”

My dad is one of the smartest men I know, but he was no match for me at that moment. “Uhhh… it’s for your mom” he said, and dashed off. The wheels in my head started turning. My mom is no giant, but what was she going to do with a three foot Fisher Price art easel? Hmm…

Sure enough, on Christmas day, the easel showed up under the tree along with my other gifts from Santa. At the tender age of five, I discovered the truth about Santa. Bummer. But it quickly dawned on me that if I let on, “Santa” would no longer make stops to the Larkin house. So, like any deviant child, I kept my lips shut. I continued making my requests of Santa, and he kept the gifts coming. I think I was about 12 when my mom finally looked at me in exasperation and announced out of nowhere “THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS.”

I just cracked up, and told her I’d known that for the last 7 years. Evil. But even once Santa stopped visiting, I still loved Christmas. But it is a kid’s holiday. As I got older, it lost some of its shine, and became more of a rat race to find that perfect present (or, if you’re like me, as good of a present as possible an hour before the exchange!) or a scramble to help cook the meal. It got even more stressful after Jonathan and I got married. Although I love both my families, Christmas got real old when you were spreading it out over four or five gatherings.

But this year, everything is different. Christmas is for the kiddos, and this year we have one of our own! I know Larkin is only three months old, and this Christmas doesn’t mean anything more to him than any other day, but it means the world to me.

The main tradition in my family is our Christmas tree. Every year, Mom buys every member of the immediate family an ornament. Some people’s trees are literally works of art: visions dripping in gold and crystal, or following a fun theme. Our tree is a hodgepodge: collections of various favorite cartoon characters, ballet slippers, baseballs, college logos, sorority symbols, cats, dogs, horses, koalas, and music notes – whatever each family member was into that year. Occasion ornaments represent multiple baby’s first Christmases, the first holiday season for various newlyweds, and a memorial for a first Christmas after losing a dear family member. Saved homemade ornaments show the growth of several children’s hand prints from baby to toddler and into school age, and the development of tactile function as messy balls of glitter, cotton balls and pipe cleaners (a reindeer face!) segue way into lovely hand painted clay figures.

My baby's first ornament

Our tree may not be the most artfully decorated, but putting it up is an instant trip down memory lane. And this year, it was so fun to watch Larkin stare fascinated at the sparkling lights and shiny, colorful decorations. He even got his own baby’s first Christmas ornament!

Helping daddy pick the perfect branch

Everything is so much more brilliant and beautiful when you see it through a child’s eyes. I looked at my Jonathan as we were hanging decorations “Who knew we’d be playing Santa Claus this year?!?” I giggled. And it’s so true! Last Christmas, having a baby was the LAST thing on our mind. It’s been a wild year, but it’s been an amazing ride.

You're the best gift ever, little boy!

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