Illuminating J-O-Y


We are in the home run stretch of building our “Not So Empty Nest.”  Can I get an amen!!!  We will be moving out of our rental at the end of January.  Which translated, means…it’s crunch time!  Due to all of THIS, I knew Scrooge would be reeking havoc with my otherwise merry spirit, as well as my baking and decorating traditions.

What to do?

I made the executive decision to purchase two trees from one of my favorite stores, Restoration Hardware.  Two three-foot tall white little babies.  I had a plan – a minimalistic Christmas was in order due to our exhausting schedule.  No multiple green trees this year.  Just these two white beauties, one in an old crock and the other placed artfully beside of it.  No time equalled no adornment with ornaments, no five varieties of greenery or all the other usual suspects in my decorating repertoire.  In my mind.  It all made perfect sense.

We happily picked the trees up on our way to see a movie while our daughter, Samantha, was visiting over Thanksgiving.  They looked so beautiful dispersed around the RH store.  I was certain that the sugarplum visions in my head were being brought to fruition.  While Sam was checking out, I confidently declared to Samantha that, “Yep, I’ll just decorate a cloche, put the trees up and THAT’S IT!!”

On Saturday, as we discussed our minimalistic Christmas plans I became even more confident.  Samantha offered to help put the trees together before she left, but as I waited for her to get out of the shower, my excitement got the best of me.  So I started assembling the trees, hoping to surprise her.  It took all of ten minutes to put the trees together.  As I tried to shape the “branches” into something hopeful, it just got worse – making Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree look remarkably festive.  This is where I began to hear nails on a chalkboard.  Everything from this point on was spoken in a garbled slow motion voice, and the room swirled  in a kaleidoscope of Christmas gone wrong. 

No offense Restoration Hardware. Seriously.  In groupings of at least five or more, your trees look spectacular!  But as I sat looking at my pathetic little trees that looked absolutely dwarfed by their surroundings: they were symbolic of the frustrating year we’ve had.  They were so ugly and barren it was laughable.  However…this Christmas elf was no where near the laughing phase of my holiday debacle!  I fought back  droplets of frustration that were trying hard to squeeze out from the corner of my eyes.

As it is with most “situations” – it was never about the trees.

Christmas is symbolic of many emotions for me, and I realized in that moment that some things simply can’t be altered.  Even though we weren’t yet in our home, as I’d hoped, I longed for a teensy gingerbread crumb of “holiday sameness.”

I also knew that due to all that needed to be done, both at the rental and our home, compromise was in order.  And peace with that compromise was unconditionally and unequivocally necessary.

As Samantha finished getting ready, she found me standing in our storage room amid rows and rows of boxes, attempting to figure out how to save Christmas.  I stood looking at my sweet daughter, telling her how ridiculous the trees looked, thinking of how I always want to make Christmas special for my family – my frustration got the best of me.  The droplets won.  She consoled me saying, “As long as we’re together that’s all that matters.  The trees will be fine mom, don’t worry,” she reassured me.  Thank you sweet daughter!!

As we walked downstairs to gaze upon our trees it was obvious.  Being the realist that she is, the look on her face confirmed what I already knew.  She looked at them and in that slow garbled voice said, “Wwwhhaaat??”  Enter the laughing phase!  As my husband, Sam, arrived for lunch he took one look at our sad trees and said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” As we ate our bobbie sandwiches and glanced laughingly one last time at our so-called trees, we crafted a new plan for our minimalistic Christmas.  We would buy a small pre-lit tree (gasp)!  I decided that I would decorate the family room in a minimalistic manner and do nothing else to the rest of the house (pinky swear).

How does a holiday decorating junkie forage for minimalistic decorations anyway?  Quickly I suppose.  If you’d ever seen my decorations, you would understand the challenge presented to me.  There’s my Santa collection, my holiday pictures, my dad’s hand carved trees and various other fond collected objects.  I couldn’t pick just one without picking two more.  I chose several items from a few boxes, stopping myself before I surpassed “minimal.”

My cast metal letters that spell JOY seemed to make perfect sense, as well as one of my favorite Santas and some vintage ornaments.

I began to play with arranging my foraged objects next to JOY, but nothing looked “put together.”  Everything I carefully placed beside of JOY seemed to only take away from it.  Thinking I needed just one more thing, I added and exchanged items as if I were at a holiday swap meet.  As I veered further and further away from my minimalistic approach to Christmas, suddenly the answer became as clear as the Star of Bethlehem, itself!

Illuminate JOY!!  Period.

So I placed several mercury glass tea lights amongst the letters with a few sprigs of magnolia leaves and voila!  Sometimes it takes stepping into the unknown, the unfamiliar: getting uncomfortable AND excited at the prospect of that which we don’t know.  And ultimately, stripping away the illusion of the perfect Hallmark Christmas that we carry in our head…before we can see the JOY we carry in our heart.

JOY fully illuminated and unencumbered is the magic of Christmas!




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