We live about ten minutes from a tree farm. This year, after participating in a local parade, we quickly picked out a cut-yesterday tree, tied it to the roof of the van with some baler twine, and took three tuckered-out kids home. They waited patiently while we wrestled this eight-foot beauty into the house, sawed a bit off the bottom, got it into the tree stand, and argued the need for extra support in the form of string tied to nails in the wall. My husband assured me that it was fine, and the kids set to hanging the decorations on the tree's many branches.
This is the first year that all of the kids have really gotten into this task. The older two remember their favourites (remember Violet's spawkly staw?), and I too cherished the memories of each ornament as I hung the higher branches. Much discussion was had about who would place our snowflake-star on the top. Daddy had gone out to pick up pizza for dinner, so we decided that we'd wait till he got home, and then they'd EACH take a turn topping the tree.
We settled on to the couch to read a Christmas story and to wait for daddy.
About three pages in, disaster struck. With barely a whisper, the tree started to lean forward, and with a terrifying crash, it came down, face first, shattering many a glass ornament.
Chaos, of course, ensued. The various links between the Christmas Tree and Santa's arrival were explored in varying pitches of shrieking, wailing, and weeping.
The kids were devastated. I've never seen them like this, about anything. Violet was wailing that Santa wouldn't find us, Margot was screaming that Santa's Grandma (Mrs. Claus) wouldn't come. Jude disappeared to cry alone on the stairs, mumbling that this had been the best Christmas tree EVER.
For long moments, I just sat with my hands over my face. Sometimes this is the best thing a mama can do.
Then I gathered them around me, and asked them all to take some deep breaths so they could listen. I asked them if we'd always celebrate Jesus' birthday at Christmas time. They nodded. I assured them that Santa would find us, even if we didn't have a tree, or if we lived in a cave. I assured them that as soon as daddy got home, we'd fix the tree up.
We sat there, a little circle of disbelieving faces, staring at the mess of pine needles, glass, and spilled water that a few moments earlier had been our biggest, prettiest Christmas tree ever.
I asked them which ornament had been their favourites, and we crossed our fingers in hopes that they'd still be intact.
We cleaned up the mess, and found that the damage was not as bad as it had at first seemed. I lost the super-tacky polar bear-standing-on-a-bulb-labelled-Toronto that my brother gave me last year as a joke, but aside from that, most of the breakage was cheap glass bulbs I'd bought in a set a few years ago. My children's "First Christmas" ornaments were all okay, as were the children's favourites.
As Robin and I finished securing the string to the wall, I overheard Violet telling her little sister, "Mawgot, even if we lived in a CAVE Santa would find us". Margot replied, "Santa's Gwandma, too?" Violet assured her little sister lovingly, as I had assured them all just a while before.
Before bedtime, we spread out a quilt so they could all marvel at the prettiness of the tree. Everyone went to bed peacefully after a busy, Christmassy day. I like to think this experience has added to their bank of memories: that even in the midst of apparent disaster, hope and optimism abounds, and that things aren't always as bad as they seem.