Going on the fourth Christmas, I have come to accept the Christmas tree as Matt’s presence at Christmas time. Before we had kids, Matt wanted nothing to do with having a Christmas tree. We celebrated Christmas of course, but he kind of bah humbugged a lot of it on the principle that Christmas is over commercialized. As soon as Summer was born, he went out and bought a huge artificial Christmas tree. It is 12 feet tall and he got a very good deal on Craig’s list. It is a high quality tree but it is not pre lit and you have to put it together, branch by branch. He even researched the best way to string lights which is not round and round but in and out along each branch. To properly light the tree in this way takes about 1000 lights and 2 full days of work. Needless to say, once Matt died, this was not something I was able to do on my own. But with three kids, I had to have a Christmas tree even if I didn’t feel like it. The prospect of putting the tree up in good time was quite a burden. The first year, Josh and the McNamaras helped put it up. The second year I went shopping for a pre lit tree. I looked at Target, at Lowe’s, at Home Depot and online. What I found was that none of the trees measured up to the fullness of our tree and the ones that came close were very expensive. My solution was to put up 2 instead of 3 sections of our tree which meant a 9 foot tree instead of 12 feet. There are about 9 or 10 rows of branches this way and since the top section has shorter branches, it goes up pretty fast. I also don’t try to get the tree up all at once. We work on it about an hour a day over the course of several days and now that the kids are older, they can help by fluffing out the branches before I put them up.
This year, I pulled out the tree and decided it would represent Matt himself and that putting up the tree is a meditation of sorts and a way to measure my readiness. It’s also a sort of Advent calendar as seeing the tree go from a small tuft at the end of a six foot pole to a five foot tree raised up above the ground to the full 9 foot portion corresponds to the days closing in on Christmas. The kids love holiday decorating so much and that definitely helps a lot. I try to get most of the gift shopping done in November and then slow down in December with only Christmas extracurriculars and a goal to de-rush amidst the Christmas rush. This year actually feels a bit measured and steady.