Last weekend, I turned on my Christmas music to decorate our tree. Within seconds, Jake was curled up with my iPad, slumped against the shelf with the saddest face a six-year-old can manage. The song was “All That I Want For Christmas” by The Rescues, which you can see in a video I made here – a video Jake has watched to death. I asked him what in the world was wrong, but let’s face it. I knew.
He tried to explain that Christmas music made him think of God as a little boy and that made him sad. It was a grasping-at-straws kind of explanation for that horrifying reality that the really good Christmas music is almost as sad as it is happy and no one knows why.
Michael put this picture on facebook recently, and he captioned it, “Their seventh Christmas together,” which I thought also epitomized the feeling that you want to cry forever even though the thing you’re thinking of is technically a wonderful thing. It’s a miracle Jake and I got one Christmas together. And it’s a miracle every Christmas since. And the reason that’s as sad as it is happy is because none of us really know how many Christmases we might get together. There are so many things in life that try to keep us from it.
Mom has a tradition she says she got from her mom, though I don’t think Grandma did it with the consciousness that a tradition was building. Every year, after decorating, the mom is supposed to look at the tree and say, “It’s the prettiest one we ever had.”
Jake picked out our tree this year. We were all still at the cabin where the tree gets shaken and baled and I buy Chocolate Cashew Crunch by the wood stove while that happens. We hadn’t even started up the hill to all the trees, and Jake said, “I see the perfect one.” We climbed the hill, perused, and approved. Jake was right; it was perfect. We decorated it that night, adding to our traditional pieces a new red ribbon and some brown-and-gold balls I got at Wal-Mart. Jake lined up his Santa train, Santa car, and Spiderman on the ribbon like a caravan with the ribbon as their road. We stepped back, and I was definitely thinking it. But it was Jake, the 6-year-old who can’t possibly know the tradition, who said, “I think this is the prettiest Christmas tree we have ever had.”
God bless all the mamas who live and all the babies who make it and all the grandmothers who pass on gladness for life without even trying. It’s just the prettiest.