The tree glimmers in the dim room. I am up late drinking tea and nursing a head cold, but the sight of the tree lifts me past my discomfort.
This must be the best tree I've ever decorated in my life. Shiny colored balls of every size and hue dot the branches, concentrated in the top half, while other ornaments dangle or nestle throughout. Strings of lights wind around from the top of the high central spike down the slender shape, flashing out or peeking from behind ornaments ranging from straw stars tied with red thread and hand-pressed paper angels, to glue-and-glitter sweet gum balls from twenty years ago and my baby's hand print made just last year. And the gold foil and glitter wrapped star I made years ago presides over it all. Yes, this is the best one. Because my daughter is here to see it.
We went tree shopping earlier this week, in the middle of a bitter cold of course, because most of our tree shopping incites strange weather - last year, it was sleet-snowing on us - and after it was erected properly and the lower branches soaped (to deter cats from taking ill-advised bites out of it), we let it drink and rest.
A day later followed the wrapping of the lights. I wait to see my daughter's reaction. Kissme ites! My daughter says. Mommy made it! Yes, Mommy put the lights up. More drinks for the tree, more resting.
Today during nap time, I strung antique bulbs along the mantle and started unloading ornaments onto the upper half of the tree. First, some of my favorite glass bulbs, then certain special ornaments I want featured prominently, then the red bulbs, and the gold ones, and the old-fashioned molded glass from India, and oh yes, the set of blues and greens I picked up from the thrift shop, and oh yes! the new box of miniature reds. I leave a few of them within reach. It's not too early to learn how to treat a glass bulb gently, and if a couple of them break, oh well, they are not the special ones.
I save several boxes for my daughter to help with. I'm waiting for her to wake up and exclaim over the tree, and she does. Decor-Ay-shuns! she calls them. And I show her how to open the loop of string and place it over a branch, preferably one that does not droop, and how to hook a piece of wire onto a likely spot. She doesn't have much patience for the particulars, but she exclaims over the snowflakes, the stars, the birds, and other cunning designs of color and shape. She handles the fake cardinals with wires sticking out of their feet, the be-glittered sweet gum balls (practically antiques), the striped elfs from my husband's childhood. She rings a finger on the painted steel bell ornament from my grandfather's farm. She pokes into the bag of ornament hooks.
Bah-ohs, she keeps saying as she fondles yet another globe. Oh! Anah-oh bah-oh! I keep waiting for the balls to spring back from her hand and hurl themselves to the hearth, but they stay stuck fast to their branches.
The birds, the stars, the snowmen, all familiar characters. Angels and soldiers are a new one. She's convinced the little mouse in walnut shell is a cat. She runs away with one angel chime figure, clutching it her chest while she climbs into the recliner. We give the tree another drink. Ahter for uh tree!she says.
The rest of the evening, she's drawn back to the tree again and again to hold and inspect ornaments within reach. The colors, the shapes, the lights. It's utterly fantastic and normal, both, just like in all the books we've ever read. Iss nice, she declares. And we haven't even gotten to the icicles yet. I'm telling you; best tree ever.