The other morning I was sitting at the kitchen table, wrapped in my white robe and cradlin’ a cup of coffee. The house was still pretty quiet. Lady Bird hadn’t started squawkin’, the dogs weren’t pattering around my feet and the phone hadn’t rung once, which is nothing short of a miracle. It should’ve been a peaceful moment, but wouldn’t you know that my head thought it would be a good time to worry about all the things I still had to do in the days before Christmas—all the shopping, entertaining, wrapping and cooking. Don’t get me wrong; I love every minute of it once I get going, but it’s the starting that I struggle with. Like an ol’ truck, it takes me a good while to warm up, but when I do, this girl really starts to hum.
That morning, I wasn’t humming. I was barely idling. I didn’t know where to begin.
Then my eyes landed on the Christmas tree over in the corner. Like the other trees in the house (a girl can’t have just one), it has been up since just after Thanksgiving. And even though I turn on the tree lights each morning, I really hadn’t given my favorite little tree much thought. Guess I’d just been too busy.
The tree I put in my kitchen has always been my favorite. My assistant, Brandon, designs breathtaking trees for me—the kind of trees that look like they should be in the White House. But the kitchen tree is special because it’s my family tree. It’s decorated with the most precious ornaments from my childhood and ones my boys made growing up. Some were sent to me by fans and others I picked up while junkin’. But each one tells a story. I can point to any ornament on that tree and tell you where it came from, like the faded dough star Jamie made or the brass ornament that holds a picture of Bobby in his little football uniform. My grandson Jack adds something of his to the tree every year and eventually my newest grandsons, Matthew and Henry, will too.
It’s not one of those fussy trees where everything has to be “just so.” It doesn’t have to be hoity-toity or follow some trendy color scheme. The only requirement is that every ornament—or the little hand that hangs it up there—means something to me.
When someone gives you a special ornament, it’s like they’ve handed you a memory. A friend of mine had a Godmother who would give her one ornament every Christmas. The friend would have to hide her disappointment because what she really wanted was a View Master or a Tiny Tears doll. But once we grew up and learned to appreciate such things, she realized that she couldn’t have been given a better gift. Because while the View Master gave way to Barbie and then to Elvis albums, those ornaments have been timeless. I took this to heart when I gave my stepdaughter, Michelle, a small collection of Radko ornaments for her baby shower. It’s something we can all add to over the years and then when her son Henry is all grown up, he’ll have a wonderful collection for his own tree. Each ornament will have a story and special person behind it.
In a lot of ways, lookin’ at that tree in my kitchen is like flippin’ through a photo album of my life. I could sit there for hours. I must’ve been staring at those ornaments for about twenty minutes, smiling to myself like a kid on Christmas morning, when the phone finally started ringing.
Within seconds Lady Bird started calling for me and the dogs wanted to be fed. My day was going to begin if I wanted it to or not. But having those few moments of silence to walk down memory lane made all the difference. It put the Christmas “To-Do” list in perspective. It got me hummin’ again.