One must always try and look at the positive side of life and the one positive aspect of all the children leaving home is that you get to decorate the Christmas tree in the way that you want.
For thirty years now I have encouraged the kids to dress the tree, traditionally on Christmas Eve the tree is carefully and religiously decorated and then on the Twelfth Night the tree is unceremoniously undressed, albeit without any of the loving care that accompanied the Christmas eve festivities !
Christmas carols, a reading of the "Night Before Christmas" , fairy lights, spiced gluwein (who knows why when it is 40 degrees in the shade), but all these little traditions have added up to the DRESSING OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE for generations in our little family.
The actual tree itself has traditionally been a bit of a disappointment, how does one get a beautiful Home and Garden type Christmas tree in the middle of Matabeleland. ? But we have sufficed happily for many years of Matabeleland living with withered, mangy looking pines and adorned them with gusto and awe, irrespective of whatever they have looked like.
BUT we have never decorated them the way I wanted to........You know those trees you see in magazines, all perfectly colour coordinated, every bauble absolutely symmetrically distanced from the other, classically red and gold only or possibly even perfectly midnight blue and silver.
One year we hired a nine footer from Wrights nursery, and when covered in tinsel and baubles it looked superb. Frequently we have spent Christmas in Dallas and there one is thoroughly spoiled for choice, you can choose between a twenty foot Douglas Fir, a nine foot Mountain cedar and a six foot birch, all perfectly shaped, all full of spicy green pine needles, all straight out of the Home and Garden decorators book.
I also remember with great fondness a couple of wonderful Christmases we spent in Chimanimani where we were inundated with magnificent trees, Thomas Mbanje the manager of Border Timbers sent around two vast statuesque douglas, quite firs fit for Times Square and then dear Shane and Brigitte Kidd who have suffered so much in Chimanimani, very kindly brought in their bakke another type of Pine, full, beauteous to the extreme, so we had not one, not two but three incredible Christmas Trees.
The downside of Christmas that year was when we rushed to fetch the decorations only to find that they had inadvertently been transported back to Bulawayo the previous Christmas. !!
But nothing daunted we proceeded to raid the Chimanimani Village Shops, (which were sadly lacking in Christmas Decor to say the least ) However "needs must" so we improvised and the three trees were , after many innovative fingers were set to work, festooned with decorations made of colourful chocolates, paper doilies, those pretty paper chains that we used to make when we were children and an eclectic variety of baubles including earrings on paper clips, painted pine cones, and oranges and apples suspended on pieces of string.
For years now our trees have looked, well, I suppose like everyone else's trees that have been decorated with eager childish sticky fingers. Loads of garish tinsel of all colours, wrapped around with youthful glee, clumps of sweet Christmas treasures made slowly and painfully at nursery schools over the years. Family heirlooms that had been handed down over generations, all bundled together on one spindly branch, teetering with Christmas glee and expectation. Splendid and very special trees in all their messy garish glory !!
And on the twelfth Night it has always been such a relief to undress the tree and get the clutter back in their little boxes for a twelve month rest.
But Christmas 2002 was the first Christmas that He Who Must Be Obeyed and I have decorated the Christmas tree alone without any of our offspring.
(They all arrived home too late and too tired to join in the family traditions. )
So, guess what, I did it MY WAY !!!!
Elegant little red velvet bows interspersed with tiny gold baubles, minute gold parcels with filigree string, tiny bright gold bells which really chime melodiously, and of course a gold and glass angel on the very top of the tree.
WHITE LIGHTS ONLY !! That is imperative, no coloured lights allowed and definitely not those awful musical Chinese lights that blink and twink and blare out tinny Christmas Carols.
It shone, it radiated, band box perfect in every respect, it was much admired by all and sundry who called by over Christmas.
It was a very special sight indeed for the Offspring when they eventually made their weary way through the front door of their precious home of 25 very happy years.
It was the envy of the decorators guild, the quilters guild, all the others Mums who secretly yearn to decorate their own trees, BUT, it was tinged with secret sadness.....
Is this what Christmas will be like in future now that the little Fledglings have all fled the nest, ?
Will this be our last Christmas in our precious home perhaps. ?
As I carefully undressed the Christmas tree 2002 I prayed that it would all come right and that 2003 would bring us back a Christmas tree that was not band box perfect and magnificent, but rather the one that I have treasured for thirty years now, cluttered, garish and oh so very permanent and special.