Each year, once it’s in the stand and properly aligned in the room, we build it out from the center.
First come the lights. Three strings of tiny white lights. I like to place these closer to the trunk than to the ends of the branches, as if inside the tree, so the lights twinkle like ice crystals as I walk around the room.
Then come the two strings of wooden cranberries. I don’t remember when we got these, perhaps in Tennessee the year our daughter was born.
The dove goes on the very top of the tree, tipped so that it seems to descend into the room.
Then come the paper snowflakes. The snowflakes are a legacy now; most of them are survivors of a Christmas party in Chicago 29 years ago. As our guests arrived we directed them to a stack of white University of Chicago “dissertation bond” typing paper and several pairs or scissors and asked them to cut out paper snowflakes. Additional snowflakes were added over the years by other friends and by our children. As is to be expected, each snowflake is different from all the others. Some of them are actually rectangles or circles rather than hexagonal snowflake shapes, but many have intricately cut lacy centers. The tiniest hang near the top, the largest hang at the bottom.
Next come the family favorites. Two sets of glass globes, one set clear and the other silvered; two small ornaments, cast metal and glazed, that were a gift from my aunt; a Santa, swinging from a branch with a lantern in his hand; and two small, flat metal ornaments inscribed with the year of each child’s birth. A visit to the Smithsonian Institution many years ago provided us with a cluster of cardboard circus animals and an assortment of “antique” cardboard angels and animals. With these the tree is complete and the celebration is ready.
The ceilings here are considerably higher than ceilings in our previous houses, so this year’s tree is taller than any we have had before — we had to use a ladder to put the dove on top.