Every time I hear the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” I wonder about the “presents on the tree” part. On the tree? What does that mean? How would that work? I finally googled it recently and discovered that, indeed, presents used to be hung on the tree or nestled in its branches, but they were small things like dolls and cookies, and for a time there were even containers sold for the express purpose of hanging on the tree with small gifts inside. A holdover from that time is the animal crackers box with its string — it was originally made that way as a Christmas promotion, specifically to be hung on the tree! (If you want to read more, check on the great article “Hanging Gifts ON the Tree” at www.twelvedays.com/blogs/news/7040100-hanging-gifts-on-the-tree.)
Of course, my mind immediately went to “how on earth would that work with small children in the house??” but then I reminded myself that it’s not actually a thing we need to worry so much about anymore anyway, which is just another in a long list of ways my children are growing up and our household is looking so different from how it did even just last year.
Not only are “presents on the tree” not as terrifying an idea as it would have been previously, but even the location of our Christmas tree is evidence of the absence of babies and toddlers. For the vast majority of the last seventeen years, figuring out where to put our Christmas tree has been a no-brainer: it goes in the room that the little ones aren’t allowed in.
In our first house, where my oldest two came home to after being born, we had a front room that the front door opened into, and a back sunroom that my grandmother had added on when she’d lived there. The back room was the kids’ playroom and our general living room; the front room was for the nice loveseat and the Christmas tree.
In our current house, where we’ve lived ever since we moved from my grandmother’s house, we also have a front room that our front door opens into, and my ideal is that it stays nice, like a sitting room or parlor, where we and guests can sit in relative peace and order (it almost never works out that way, but the intention is there). All the rest of the first floor is living space, where my children have free rein, but I always had a baby gate in the doorway into the front room when I had very small little ones so that there was some effort to keep it nice. Clearly, it was the only place for the Christmas tree.
It’s a perfect room for it too — it has a nice big window that looks out onto the street, which is ideal for a Christmas tree, and every year I sigh with happiness when I drive up to our house at night and see the pretty Christmas tree in the front window.
But this year, I’m not sure where the tree should go! Because of the shutdown and everyone working and schooling from home, it became very obvious to me that we didn’t have adequate workspaces for everyone, so Santa generously brought desks for the boys last year. Figuring out where to put them was a task, let me tell you. But we figured it out, and it’s been great, except that two of the desks are in our already very small front room — the “nice” room — and now there’s no room for the Christmas tree.
I’m sure I could figure out some way of reconfiguring the room for the month or less that we’d have the Christmas tree up, but I’ve actually been thinking about doing something different — I’ve been thinking about maybe putting it in the TV room, which is also in the front of the house, on the other side of a wall from the “nice” front room. It also has a window that looks out on the street — a much smaller window, but still. And this is the big thing, the thing that made me think to write about it for this column: my youngest is three, and while there will definitely be a learning curve for him about what he can and cannot do in regard to a Christmas tree in his living space, I actually think it’s not impossible like it would have been even last year, or any of the other previous almost seventeen years.
Look how far we’ve come!
There are so many things about these kids growing up that make me sad, like how more than half of them are now wise to the ways of Christmas. I have always loved helping create the mystery and magic of Christmas, and while it’s still wonderful with big boys, and I still do have three little ones who are wide eyed with wonder, and I will always do what I can to help with the mystery and magic, there was something so special about all of our children watching the sky for Santa’s sleigh. But there are also a lot of things about the kids growing up that I’m not hating at all, like having the freedom to put the Christmas tree in a different spot. Look at us with our gateless house and our Christmas tree in our TV room! We could probably even hang some presents on the tree without worrying that Mr. Three-Year-Old would ruin it all. (Well … maybe not just yet.) A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!