There were twenty little boxes for her to choose from. Each one that she chose to press, would play a small selection of the Christmas album advertised. We pass this kiosk every time we are in the seasonal section. And each time, she pushes the same one. This is what she loves about the merry and bright. The music.
While the music plays on repeat, we stroll through the aisles of Christmas wrapping and amazing options for the decorator. The tags and small bells, the brown paper packaging, twine and red frills, make my head swim in thoughts about maybe, someday, actually putting a bow on every package we wrap at home.
I am content with the simple.
I love beautiful things and admire those with an artistic flair and time to create such beauty and wonder at this time of the year.
But long ago, when I was rocking my babes in front of our small Christmas tree which has now grown in height and girth to match our family, I would pray that I could give my children the very best Christmas ever. Every year. Minus the pretty packages and bows.
Little fingers, dull needles and thread have brought merriment around our gathering room every year as we string garland from popcorn for our tree. There are finger pricks and broken crumbs all over my floor by the time the strings are measured and strung. Some strands are short to match the attention and arm span of the little one’s.
And as the children grew, their strands would become longer and they would become more patient to watch the reward of our love hung onto our tree.
This act of love and tradition of Christmas takes us hours to complete. I spend half of my time untying knots in their thread, as the popcorn refuses to pass over the smalles bump and collection of string all balled up. Right in the middle. With the most gentle tone I can give after repeated attempts at the same knot, I encourage my child to start over. Begin new, and to hang the messy, unfinished strand, onto the tree. Connecting it with the last pretty addition and watching it blend into the rest.
Every year, one child takes it upon themselves, to make the longest string. While the music is playing on repeat, and I am threading my own needle in and out of the thickest and softest part of the popped kernel, I watch to see who might catch the glimpse of excellence and competition in their eyes.
It happens quietly. They slip into their own space of creativity, filling a large stainless steel pot of freshly popped corn, for the ultimate stringing choices. I watch as they double their thread, checking for knots, and they begin the process of trying to create the longest strand to adorn our tree.
We have since cleaned the floors, strung all of the lights and washed the last of the kernels into the dustpan, while we wait for the grand announcement that the last bit of garland has been finished.
I can feel the tension as they untie their string from one end of the room to the other, where they had been anchoring their thread to run back and forth until they had measured what they thought was the longest in history of the family strands. Every piece has been counted and they stand back in wonder of their work.
I watch in wonder as each of my children live out this tradition every year. What began as a simple way to bring us together in the season of decorating our tree, has become one of my favorite days of the year.
Because on the other 364 days? We are doing this very same thing.
I listen to whispers of love from my babies and my older children.
I watch them jump into one another’s arms in the driveway when one of them returns home from town.
I hold their big and little hands at every meal, while we gather in a circle before we sit, to thank the Lord for His goodness. This circle of love.
I watch them interact in disagreements and then restoration every day.
And I see glimmers of hope in small places where some days I think I have lost.
Every day of the year.
And every Christmas, we do the same thing again and again.
Don’t miss the moments. Don’t let the knots get in your way. Start over and over again and then string them all together.
Because it takes sacrifice to love.
The child with the longest, hardest, and most brilliant strand of garland has earned their reward. A round of applause from the family and hugs all around.
But, when this strand is hung on the tree, and connected with the ends of the others.
The beginning and the end disappear, and the tree has a story of its very own.
Our tree…A beautiful act of love, held together by strands of love.
Every day, string pearls and untie knots, and let the story of Christmas weave into your hearts all year long.