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Tree kindles colorful Christmas memories
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Forsyth County News

Is your Christmas tree up and decorated? We had ours up and looking beautiful before Thanksgiving Day.

I love all aspects of a Christmas tree — going to find one, watching Paul put the lights on and hanging the ornaments.

I don’t remember buying all of our ornaments, or who gave me which ones, but I do remember the origin of the vast majority of them.

The ornaments represent times in our lives — from the veterinarian ornament, when one daughter wanted to be a vet, to the ballerina ornament, when the other was into ballet — and all have meaning.

They also conjure up all sorts of memories. When three of our four children were home this past week, we reminisced about Christmases past and I recounted a funny story about how we came to have colored lights on our tree. For some background, let me explain.

When I was growing up, my parents let us decorate the Christmas tree, which always was fake, by ourselves.

That meant, my three brothers — who could mostly could have cared less about how it looked — put lights, ornaments and ugly colored tinsel-type roping all around it. We ended the project by tossing on tinsel, essentially covering it with the silver strands.

The finished product was a far cry from the beautifully decorated trees in department stores. I longed for one of those “perfect” trees and vowed when I was a grown-up, I would have one.

Of course, those beautiful decorations are expensive. So when Paul and I first married, I opted for white lights and uniform round ornaments with just a few similar pastel colors. Very tasteful, I thought.

When Paul suggested we add colored lights to “spruce things up,” I explained we wanted a more “refined-looking” tree, even recounting my ugly-Christmas tree-childhood-story.

When our older two children were quite young, they begged for colorful, blinking lights for the tree, but I held my ground. Of course, by then we had added many more ornaments to our growing collection. Still, my goal was to keep everything fairly uniform and tasteful.

Then came a Christmas gathering I attended with some ladies at an upscale neighborhood. I happened to be in a group that was discussing decorations and the tackiness of colored lights. My ears perked up.

One woman said her subdivision didn’t allow homes to have any “visible” colored lights on their homes. I was appalled.

Despite the personal hang-ups about my tree, who in the world cared if people had colored, blinking Christmas lights? Apparently these women did.

Suddenly, I felt the urgency to get home and right my ship, err, my Christmas tree.

That very night I informed Paul that we needed to make a trip to the store and stock up on colored tree lights, preferably the kind that blink on and off. The more, the merrier.

Our children were thrilled with my change of heart. We furthered the celebration by stringing popcorn and hanging it up, as well as making some paper snowflake ornaments to complete the new, less refined look.

After that, every ornament we bought had a special meaning or connection to the person who picked it out. A soccer ball ornament for the soccer player, a parrot ornament for the bird lover, and so on.

I used to tell the kids that when they grew up, I would give each of them a box containing their personal ornaments. So far, three of our children are grown and out of the house and I have yet to hand over any ornaments.

I’m not ready to part with them just yet. Maybe when they get married and have children of their own.

Somehow I don’t think that bribe will cause any of them to hurry into that particular part of their life.

Each year, our Christmas tree is a crazy, overcrowded hodge-podge of ornaments — some fancy, some made from paper with a small picture of the child who crafted the ornament — and all are precious representations of our lives.

There are still white lights on the Christmas tree. But the colored, blinking ones draw notice. Those are the ones that make me smile.


Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at