the line at three feet

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There are no gifts under the tree. And yet there it stands, oddly decorated, in our living room.  The tree itself is not odd, an artificial one gifted us by my generous aunt and uncle.  Nor are the ornaments any more peculiar than might be expected.  There are Santas, snowmen, stars, stuffed animals, and even a few soccer balls.  Some of the decorations were given us and others we’ve bought over the years, some have meaning, and others don’t.  I suspect this is the case with most Christmas trees and their trimmings.

No, what makes our tree strange is the very conspicuous line about three feet from the bottom. It is an international border line of sorts.

All the fragile ornaments and decorations live in the country to the north.  They are made of glass and porcelain and don’t get out much.  Like delicate old grandmothers they stay home for Christmas, patiently awaiting the arrival of visitors. When the visitors do arrive, there is no rush to open gifts; instead there is tea and conversation.  Quiet conversation, about the weather (it’s always cold, you know) and second and third cousins.  When these dainty ornaments do finally open their gifts, the paper is carefully removed and folded (no ripping, goodness no) and set aside to be used again next year.  The moment is savored, and cards are given the same attention as the crystal figurines and punch bowls they serve to introduce.  These grandmotherly ornaments are both beautiful and safe, living north of the border.  And they don’t drive, even though there’s an extremely low-mileage Buick in the garage.

To the south are the durable and adventure-loving ornaments.  Most of them are made of wood or plastic, and they can not sit still.  Not even for a moment.  These are the decorations with ADHD, and no doctor will prescribe Ritalin for holiday accessories. Like preschool children waiting for Christmas morning, they run from room to room in jubilant expectation. When unwrapping presents, these ornaments scream and thrash about, throwing paper, jumping up and down.  All cards are ignored, as are gifts that have already been opened.  Moments are not savored; they are swallowed whole.  I told you these ornaments live south of the line of demarcation, but in reality you would be hard-pressed to see any of them if you came to visit.  Most are probably away on another of their adrenaline-filled exploits, climbing bookcases or spelunking under beds.  Though I do see a lone stuffed sheep here in the floor.  And over there is a wooden Santa Claus, just at the foot of the couch.

There are no gifts under the tree for the same reason our ornament border exists.  And that very pronounced line at three feet is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

I just hope she doesn’t get any taller.



Filed under family, holidays, writing

16 responses to “the line at three feet

  1. Lovely post. Good luck with that…..but, she will get nicer to the things as she grows taller. 😉

    my “Legbutt tree” WAS a good idea….nothing important has broken or missing, nor had any arms ripped off since they are still in a storage box…..
    but, all those Lego’s!!!!! ??? Well, he takes them all down to play, rips off legs, throws them in boxes and bowls, and leaves them on the floor to step on.
    I’ll have to draw a line at 5 feet next year and risk it!
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Love this post! Our four children are all now in their teens, but I remember well the modified Christmas tree. One year I think we actually considered putting the tree inside a playpen. Funny how those things that can seem bothersome at the time can grow to be part of our fondest memories.

    Merry Christmas, Brett!

  3. I love thus post! I hope you and your family have a merry Christmas. Thankyou for all you do!

  4. randy morgan

    beautiful allegory, brett. and, may i say (from a wizened old man to a young one), that although your perspective is the proper one (“I just hope she doesn’t get any taller”), the most beautiful thing in the world is watching your kids grow up. merry christmas, my friend…savor it.

  5. Emily Miller

    I love this post. And I love Larry’s comment that “the things that seem most bothersome at the time can grow to be some of our fondest memories’. I need to remind myself of that this week when I find myself exasperated a lot..
    And you can dream that it’s only height that is an issue- at our house mr. E randomly threw a huge teddy bear directly AT the tree the day before yesterday and it was really amazing it didn’t topple over and break everywhere since the base is partially duct-taped together. I’m sure you’d never guess mr. E could be capable of such random acts of destructiveness… Wishing you guys a great night and weekend!

    • i laughed out loud all three times i read about the teddy bear being thrown at the tree. i know it was probably a difficult half-hour or so… but it’s really funny.

      and can we really call them random acts of destructiveness when they happen even somewhat regularly? at what point do they become “recurrent acts of destructiveness?”

  6. jay @ bethegospel

    didn’t know where you were going at first and then I caught on. very sweet.

    • thanks, jay. i actually enjoy writing things like this more than anything, i think. but i always struggle to know if my meaning is going to come across at all? or will my readers figure it out too early? etc. but i’m working on it.

  7. Small world, huh? Thanks for stopping my our blog.

    We have a distinct line on our tree, too – and like you, that line is the best thing in the world.

    Merry Christmas! Hope you are doing great!!!!

  8. I hope the Geita team had a great Christmas!

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