It happens every year.
I procrastinate about decorating the Christmas tree, mostly because of the overwhelming sense to “get it right.”
Decorating the Christmas tree is a tradition I’ve never missed. It’s a tradition I picked up from my mom … one that always brings me back to a place of innocence and trusting that lives deep within my heart, safe from whatever disappointments life throws at me.
It’s a symbol of hope, no matter how hopeless things may seem.
Last year — two days before her journey to the Rainbow Bridge — our beloved Queenie lay in her little bed next to the tree as I decorated it. My dad’s spirit was right there with her. He had continued his journey into eternity a few months earlier.
Each time I glanced at Queenie, our eyes met.
We both knew it was the last Christmas we would decorate the tree together.
Christmas past …
Christmas mornings had always been magical for me.
They became even more magical after Queenie came into our lives.
There’s nothing quite like watching a 10-pound mini Dachshund forage under the tree to find the gifts Santa brought her — Her human moms pausing long enough to open our own gifts, taking turns to throw the latest squeaky toy our “daughter” brought to us — All the while delighting in the precious, blessed — and oh, so fleeting moment.
It’s a fleeting moment that all parents share … no matter how many legs our children have.
I am blessed to have found a partner who treasures Christmas as much as I do.
She and I have quite the array of ornaments and decorations that we’ve collected — both at home and during our world travels — throughout the years.
Each year, the process of decorating the tree gets more complicated as I attempt to add as many of our ornaments as possible.
Everything is placed on the tree in a particular order. The bows and balls, the poinsettias, the garland, the gold and maroon splashes of color that are the foundation upon which the magic is built.
The ornaments are last.
They are the most fun to place because they conjure up so many memories. Most are grouped by the country in which we purchased them — the ones from our latest trip always go front and center, near the ones that started it all for us — the ones from the trip to California when Queenie was just a puppy.
But now we have so many ornaments, that we could fill the tree at Rockefeller Center and still have a few dozen left over.
And that’s why the process has become more and more daunting. And it’s precisely why my procrastination grows with each passing year.
A few years ago, we stopped buying a real tree and opted for a pre-lit “fake” one that looks pretty real. At least it saved me the frustration of getting the lights “just right.”
Two weeks ago, I took the tree out of its box and put it together. But there it sat in front of our dining room window, only the lights coming on each night.
Christmas present …
My procrastination this year was so intense that I even considered leaving the tree naked, with only its lights as decoration. It has both colored and white lights from which I can choose at the click of a switch, so even “undecorated” it looks pretty awesome.
But in my heart of hearts, I knew the Dachshund angel looking down from the Rainbow Bridge — next to her grandpa — were rolling their eyes and laughing at my naked tree idea.
And then, one night I simply began.
I let go. I asked the tree to tell me how it wanted to be decorated. (No, the egg nog was not spiked.)
I released the outcome (a lesson I’ve been getting good at learning these past few months.)
I stopped trying to decorate the tree the way I thought it was “supposed to be decorated” and just started placing the ornaments where they led me to place them.
And, in record time, the tree was done.
Christmas future …
As I stood back to survey the finished product, I said a prayer of thanks to the One for whom I celebrate the Season. That One may be different for you and me, but the Spirit of the Season is the same, no matter how different our beliefs may be.
This year, my Christmas tree reminded me of the value of surrender — a theme that’s been the undercurrent of my life lately.
It’s by letting go — by getting out of life’s way — that we attract the things we most want for ourselves.
The secret is to place the ornaments we are given to decorate our lives wherever the Spirit guides us to place them.
And when we stand back to survey the finished product … it will be perfect.