(This article was first posted in 2009, when I still lived in Germany. See the end of this piece for the current “State of the Tree” update. If you’re single or know a single person, this might be an idea for you/them to consider…)

I briefly visited the Basel Christmas market tonight, and as we were walking down one particularly crowded aisle, dodging elbows and the elderly (and some elderly elbows), Mari Ellen asked me, “So what kind of tree ornaments do you like?” I paused for a moment before answering.

I have a single girl’s tree. It’s small. It’s plastic. It’s adorned with matching, brushed-gold ornaments and a fetching red and gold ribbon. Though it’s uniform and balanced, it’s about as festive as Tupperware.

Only families with children and years of communal living seem to have the eclectic, whimsical, and chaotic trees that speak of common roots and memories.

My tree is well organized, classily adorned and…entirely too sterile.


I hesitate to mention this topic, particularly at a time of year when cheer takes precedence over honesty. I don’t want to sound maudlin or ungrateful—I am neither! But there’s a sense of unrest and lostness we single girls sometimes feel at Christmastime.

Being single can truly be a beautiful, flourishing thing, yet it carries with it distinctive down-sides that are seldom acknowledged.

Those down-sides have never been so evident as in the immaculate Christmas tree standing in my living room—like a finicky, tight-lipped relative who glares when you put down your glass without first reaching for a coaster.

I want to change the way my tree looks.

I’m not satisfied anymore with the measured distance from perfect bulb to artistically coiled ribbon.

I don’t have children. And with my last cancer and its treatment, it’s safe to state that I will never have them. I won’t have the births and first days of school and all those other milestones of life that would, in ornament form, make of a my plastic evergreen a family tree. No paper stars. No pop-cycle-stick mangers.

But though I may be called barren in clinical terms, my life has not been. I’ve had you in my lifeand what an immeasurable gift the accumulation of so many “yous” has been!

I’ve been blessed with more love and meaning than I could possibly deserve, though it came from a different source than I might have expected when I was younger…

So I’m changing my tree—I’m determined. And I need your help to do so.

If you have had even a small part in my life, either as friend, student or relative, and if you’d like to be a part of the messy, off-kilter, lived-in tree I dream of, would you consider this?

I’d love for you to send me an ornament.

I’ll even cover the cost of the item and the shipping if it’s too much for you! I don’t care what it looks like. I just want it to be a testament to the brushing of our livesfunny, graceful, quirky, homemade, polished or traditional in your country…it doesn’t matter to me! As long as you write your name on it somewhere and it means something to you.

It is now fourteen years later. At last count, there are 171 ornaments on my tree, all given to me over more than a decade of personal flourishing and medical woe. Each one of the ornaments—from the wool-wrapped plastic spoon to the Swedish elf passed down for generations—has the name of a loved one written on it, someone who knew me as a child, as a teenager, or as an adult. Former students, friends, relatives, colleagues…

What a wealth of life my messy tree is! Every year, as I spend far too long hanging each testament to the love God has given me in non-parental form, it brings such great joy, gratitude and awe.

My life has been deeply blessed by so many of you. And now, every winter, I get to see its fullness in a tangible way. 

One final thing: I love that Mari Ellen commented on this post (below) when it was first published over a decade ago. She’s now singing with real angels in Heaven. I miss her God-given friendship and championing. That she is represented multiple times on my tree in such a personal way brings tears and gratitude.


One Comment

    • germanmiss

    • 14 years ago

    You go girl!! I’m SO PROUD of you for your courage (in many areas). I pray that 2010 will be the year of a FULL, “tacky” Christmas tree at your house!!! I LOVE YOU!!!

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