(This article was posted in 2009, when I still lived in Germany. I now have a tree that is bursting with meaningful ornaments from people who have mattered in my life. 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 and as meaningful as Kim Kardashian’s philosophy of life.
Only families with children and years of communal living have the eclectic, whimsical, and chaotic trees that speak of common roots and memories.
My tree is well organized, classilly adorned and…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’m neither! But there’s a sense of unrest and lostness we single girls feel at Christmastime.
Being single can truly be a good, profitable status, 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. 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 bites 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 have been barren, my life hasn’t been. I’ve had YOU in my life—and 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.
Here’s the idea: 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 lives. Funny, 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 four years later. At last count, there are 131 ornaments on my tree that were given to me. Each one of them has the name of a loved one written on it—people who knew me as a child, as a teenager, as an adult. Former students, friends, relatives, colleagues… What a wealth of life my messy tree is! It brings me joy, gratitude and awe.
My life has been so blessed by so many of you. And now, every winter, I get to see its fullness in a tangible way. I’m humbled.
One final thing: I love that Mari Ellen commented on this post (below) when it was first published. Several of my new ornaments came from her—and she’s now singing with real angels in Heaven.