Every year it happens. It’s just inevitable. There’s no escaping it. I have to put up the Christmas tree.

My kids love the tree and all of the decorations. So, as much as I’d love to avoid it, I do it for them. In another five years or so, it will become their job, and I’ll relax on the couch and supervise. Until then, the task falls to me.

I’ve had the same artificial tree for about seven or eight years now. The stupid thing hates me. I’m serious! No matter what I do to try and “shape” the thing, it just refuses to look good. It’s a sneaky thing too. I get to the last layer of branches and sigh with relief. I’m almost done! Then the top of the tree mocks me. If shaping the branches is a nightmare, then shaping the top is THE nightmare. It refuses to be shaped in an attractive manner. And when I finally DO get it looking half-decent, I discover that the side that has been chewed by the mice is facing the front. (Mice chewed the fake needles off some of the tree the first year it was in storage. It now lives in a plastic tub in the off-season.) So, now I have to turn the top of the tree around, and try re-shaping since the part that was facing the wall looks hideous. When it is at last assembled, I step back and notice the nice filled-out areas of the tree… and the gaping holes that take center stage. No amount of fiddling with the branches ever makes it better. In fact, it may have made it look worse. I regard the tree sourly and mutter something about just sticking a lone red ornament on it and calling it Charlie Brown’s tree since it’s so ugly. I can hear the tree laughing at me. (I swear that it’s really an Ent with a rather twisted sense of humor…)

I pull out the string of new LED lights and drape it on the tree. I stand back, and then try to fix the dramatically uneven distribution of twinkle lights. When I decide that I can’t make the lights look any worse, I reach for the ornaments. The ornaments themselves are pretty. Teal and brown this year. I can never resist picking up something at Wal-Mart once the ornaments are on the shelves. They look so pretty in the boxes. I imagine how beautiful they will look on our lovely tree. Then reality sets in. I try to strategically place each shiny ball to cover up the holes in the tree branch arrangements. Instead, they look like helpless little planets about to be crushed into oblivion by a black hole. Garland, I skip. I’ve never been able to put it on the tree so that it looks good. Tinsel is right out! Although, I did ponder putting some on this year. Mom always told me that my tree would look better with tinsel. Perhaps if I put ENOUGH tinsel on it, it would hide the innate ugliness. I dismiss the idea with the realization that one swipe of the German Shepherd’s massive tail would spread tinsel throughout my entire house.

The tree skirt is the only thing that made me smile. It’s one that Mom made. It looks like her. Bright, fun fabrics. It looks happy. It doesn’t match the teal and brown theme, but I don’t care, because it was Mom’s.

I accomplished this while the kiddos were napping. When they woke and came downstairs to fine a decorated tree and freshly baked Christmas cookies waiting for them, they were thrilled. As ugly as the tree is, they told me over and over how beautiful it was, and how much they liked it. Munchkin liked our nativity scene too. It’s one that Mom gave me two years ago for Christmas. They did notice right away that the tree had no star. This was mentioned to me MANY times.

Making a star for our tree will be a project for today. I’ll get some help from my adorable kiddos, and it will be my favorite decoration on the tree, just because they helped me make it! As much as I dread putting up the Christmas tree, it is worth it for the look on the kids’ faces when they wake up to what they consider a beautiful tree. Things look a bit different through the eyes of a child. Maybe I’ll recapture a bit of that this year.