We had driven past the charming tree farm dozens of times. It was blocks from our new house and I had been looking forward to one of my favorite Christmas traditions: picking out a real tree.
The last few years, because of time and circumstances, we had not been able to go the tree farm and so we had been talking it up to our two oldest, four and five year old girls. So it was with great expectation that my little family went out to pick out a tree—and it would be perfect…although it turns out I was the only one who cared much about the whole perfection thing.
As we made our way toward the trees we started to notice other customers walking back without a tree. After optimistically viewing our options, every option in fact, we realized the selection was minimal. There were trees with lots of holes, trees that were too small, and trees that were crooked.
My husband and I told the girls that we may just have to go to the grocery store lot to find a better tree. My husband then added the caveat, “unless you can agree on one.” They uncharacteristically seemed very cooperative to working together. At this point, I was cold and took our one year old son up to the barn to get some hot chocolate for myself. I assumed that they would come back soon and we could head somewhere else to look for a much better tree. But, much to my surprise, I saw two very happy girls running up, ready for hot chocolate, telling me that they had agreed on tree.
“ I was so impressed that they were set on getting a tree at the tree farm and could agree so quickly, so I let them pick it out,” my husband explained. I dreaded what my tree might look like but tried to remain positive. I knew that my desire for a perfect tree came from growing up in a house where Christmas was always beautiful. My parents house still looks like a Martha Stewart magazine at Christmas and I love it.
My fears were realized at home when we cut the string and I sat looking at a very crooked and skinny tree with a few good holes. Definitely not the full, beautiful tree I had dreamed about waking up to every morning. My husband could sense the obvious disappointment and emotion I had about a Christmas tree and tried not to be too upset about his wife acting like a toddler. He remind me that our children were happy and excited. He also gave the not so subtle hint, “ Remember, Jesus was born in a manger.” After some love from the swivel tree stand and pretty decorations, the tree looked much better and I felt pretty dumb for my weird attachment to a perfect Christmas tree and grateful for my sweet and rational husband.
I wanted to find a tree that would live up to the traditions and beautiful memories from my childhood—I love to make my home beautiful for my family. But I realized that what I love even more is the new traditions and memories my husband and I are making with our family. This disheveled Christmas tree helped me to remember that we all come into marriage with expectations and traditions that have been a part of us for our whole life, but–while it is important to hold on to traditions and share expectations with your spouse–what is most important is working together to create a family of your own, crooked tree and all. My husband and children taught me that while beautiful things can help us remember the beauty of the first Christmas, some of the most beautiful gifts in our life come out messy situations, just like a baby born in a dirty stable.