In my family, we have the tradition of putting up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. My husband has off work, and thus can make the time in his otherwise busy schedule to bring up the boxes, fiddle around with the branches that have gotten bent in storage, and change the miniature bulbs as he strings all 5000 lights. (Okay, so maybe not quite 5000, but it sure seems like it!)
Once he does the hard work of putting together everything into some resemblance of a tree, we then bring up five boxes of ornaments—one for each of my children. Like many of you, we give our children a special ornament every Christmas. And of course, their boxes wouldn’t be complete without all of the handcrafted ornaments they’ve made.
As you can imagine, over the years our tree has become more and more crowded. Odd-shaped beaded candy canes, marker-scribbled snowmen, and blue stained glass Santas adorn the branches. Those handmade ornaments intermingle with the more glamorous mementos to Baby’s 1st Christmas, special hamsters, and Star Wars creatures.
The first week or so after our tree is decorated, my youngest children like to play with their ornaments. They take off a few, have a mini-family reunion with them under the tree, then put them back on—usually on the branch already bent with several heavy ornaments. They repeat this many times each day, crowding even more ornaments into the same spot, so that eventually the tree starts to lean.
Then there’s the cat. He thinks the tree and all the dangling ornaments are especially designed for his pouncing pleasure.
You get the point. By mid-December, my Christmas tree looks like a mini-tornado has hit it.
Occasionally in the past, I would tell myself I really needed to get a new tree without the wobbly branches, one that I can decorate with matching ribbons and glass balls, one with all of the glitzy and glimmering ornaments that I drool over at Pier 1 Imports.
Nevertheless, I’ve resisted the temptation. And eventually I’ve come to realize that my teetering, slightly dilapidated, very imperfect tree is actually quite beautiful.
Beautiful, you ask? How so?
For one very important reason—because the tree is uniquely mine.
It represents me and my family to the fullest essence. From the crazy crowded chaos down to the oddest ornament, each aspect of the tree stands for years of memories (both the joys and sorrows), layers of family differences, and all of the wonderful ingredients that make my family (and me) unique.
If I tried to copy some other family’s tree, or tried to make our tree look like a page out of Better Homes & Gardens, I’d miss the wonderful beauty that makes up my family.
In a world that pressures us to conform, it’s all too easy to overlook the unique beauty that each one of us has in our families and individually. We’re bombarded with ads and entertainment that subtly (and not so subtly) push us to be like everyone else.
Even in the writing world, we often feel the pressure to conform to a certain mold in order to make our books appealing and saleable. And yet we can’t lose sight of the little things, nuances, quirks, and aspects that make up who we are. All of those things come together to form our unique, beautiful identity that helps us to stand apart from everyone else.
This holiday season I urge us all to embrace the unique beauty inside ourselves and our families. Let your life (and Christmas tree!) reflect the uniqueness of YOU. And let your writing reflect all of the unique beauty of your experiences, personality, and depth of who you are.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
P.S. I will be taking a break from blogging next week. See you on Tuesday Jan. 3.