When I was a kid, we had an artificial tree ("the good kind", my mom would say, with sturdy, individual metal branches that could bend and fluff). Beneath our angel topper were blinking, multi-colored lights and a hodgepodge of ornaments.
I loved the day we put up the tree. I loved the John Denver Christmas album that we'd play and I loved putting up the ornaments. Each one held a memory. There was the photo-ornament that my sister made in second grade when she was sans front teeth. The intricate wooden rocking horse ornament that was gifted to my brother. And my first Christmas ornament, dated three days before I was actually born.
While I loved that tree and the month it was up, I wished as a child that it was a little more chic.
My best friend at the time had a "designer" tree, with white twinkling lights, red and crimson orbs and boughs of holly. A giant red ribbon topped the tree and its tails cascaded down the branches. It was beautiful.
Also on my list of childhood Christmas tree envy were the multiple trees at my aunt's house: one in every room and each with a different theme. A firefighter tree, a Disney tree, a tree decorated with Happy Meal toys. Meanwhile, at my house, we only had one tree. And it was always the same.
When I grew up enough to have my own house, I aimed for a "designer" tree. I carefully color-coordinated the ornaments, the garland, the tree skirt, and the star topper. It was curated as much as my budget would allow. And it wasn't a fake tree, either. It was harvested from the parking lot of the hardware store.
I don't remember a particular day when my tree desires shifted. I still love a beautiful and intentionally-decorated tree. But slowly I accumulated some sentimental ornaments.
There's the yellow lab ornament for Pablo and the black lab ornament for Hollie. There's the Westie ornament for Sofia from Folk Dog Art and the pallet ornament from Six Finger Studios. There are Garth's first Christmas ornament and the ornaments my nieces made for us a few years back. We have memorial ornaments for Sten's grandparents. And last year, my mother-in-law gave us an ornament to commemorate our first married Christmas. And since we were expecting, we made an ornament out of our ultrasound image.
This year, unboxing these ornaments to put on the tree, it feels much more sentimental than ever before. Adding Willa's first Christmas ornament to the tree, after having made hundreds of these ornaments for friends and family and customers over the last ten years, I feel so honored to have helped people have a keepsake for these special times.
And now that I have a child of my own, I look back on my childhood Christmas tree and realize that the mix-matched ornaments that left me wanting were, in retrospect, relics.
The tree I want now -- the tree of Willa's childhood -- is exactly the one that I have. The one we found while cross-country skiing in Hyalite, baby in tow. The one that holds our baby's first Christmas ornament and an ice cream cone souvenir from her first trip to Ben and Jerry's this summer. And the one that will hold memories from all of the years to come.