A Christmas Tree.

December 24, 2011

My mother. 1957.

I love everything about this photo: The haphazardly decorated tree, the frame hanging crooked on the wall, the way my mother is crouched down as if she’s about to leap up and run away, the reflection on the thick glass windows, the fact that she’s wearing jeans…all of it, really.

If my mother were still living she’d probably kick me for posting this.  She liked everything to be polished.  I so much didn’t turn out that way, so it’s kind of nice to see a photo of a tree I can relate to.  Plus, it’s endlessly interesting to think of my mother as a child.  When I look at my kids and wonder how it is that I ever a.) became an adult and b.) became a mother, I remember that she must have felt the same way.  She must have often looked at me (as I do with my own kids) and thought to herself,  “How did I wind up here?”  Children, generally, have no idea how pleasantly overwhelmed their parents are at their mere existence.  And this is as it should be, I guess.  They’re marveling at the world.  We’re marveling at them marveling at the world.

I think the thing I like best about this photo is the simplicity of the house.  But let me be clear in saying that when I say “simplicity,”I have no desire to romanticize poverty, nor do I want to suggest that things were somehow better back in the days when my mother was a child.  Life has always been complicated, poverty has never been sustainable, and while I am indeed quite a Luddite about many things, I’m happy to be living in this generation with all its beauty and struggles.  I love me some internet, after all.

What I like about the picture is that there are presents under the tree, but not too many.  There are decorations on the tree but it looks like someone had fun decorating that tree and wasn’t these least bit worried about it being perfect. Mostly what I like is thinking about my mother as someone who’s gone through many phases in her life:  baby, a child, a teen, young adult,  young mother, middle-aged woman.    We all wind up being so many different versions of ourselves.  Somehow this helps me accept something of the concept of death and really does bring me some kind of peace.   I also recently lost someone who was very, very dear to me, like a grandmother really.   I remember looking at her childhood photos before the funeral.  There is something magical about remembering that those that die old were once children.

As a mother of twins, I often have strangers come up and  tell me to “enjoy every minute” of my sons’ childhood.  I appreciate this suggestion, but little do they know how often I think about how short our lives are or how I often focus on how important it is to embrace every moment with my growing sons.   I’ve never been much of a holiday decorator.  But my sons are in love with Christmas trees.  Who can blame them?  I’m coming to love them myself, especially the messy kind.

Here’s a photo of them with the tree.  Very blurry but representative of the endless motion of our house these days.

G and E

2 Responses to “A Christmas Tree.”

  1. Becca Seay said

    I never knew your grandparents were poor. I loved being at their house and eating the best pinto beans ever. They had the most important needs fulfilled, and the thing I noticed more than anything as a child, and also as an adult, was the love that filled their house, wherever they lived. I’m guessing your mother decorated that Christmas tree, and who knows, I may have helped. We were seldom apart in those days.

  2. Becca—I so agree. If are needs are met, that IS wealth. I hope that’s something I can teach my sons.
    I LOVE the thought of you and mom decorating the tree. I’d say it’s my favorite tree of all time and even more so now!

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