Shiny Tin Cans on a Christmas Tree

What is it about a Christmas tree that brings back the child in all of us? 

Christmas treeThe question came to mind while reading “The Carpenter’s Gift” by David Rubel. The centerpiece of this charming story is a boy whose family has fallen upon hard times. I felt an unexpected ache as I read that they used shiny tin cans to brighten up their Christmas tree.

The image took me back to memorable Christmas trees of my childhood. The aroma of pine.  The glow of a candle-bedecked tree, lit only when you were there to watch the flickering lights across a darkened room. The dancing reflections of a lights on shards of a broken mirror, painstakingly glued to the branches. Strings of fresh cranberries and homemade popcorn.  It was a simpler world in which a shiny tin can hung on a tree could be a source of delight to a child.  

It has been decades since I had such a Christmas tree, as I too succumbed to the urge to buy pretty things to hang on the branches. True, I never flocked a tree, and I never used boxes of store-bought ornaments. I hung my tree with souvenirs of my travels or important moments in my life. But over time, as the intensity of the memories faded, those momentos morphed into inert things to be unpacked, hung, and repacked.

Last year, in an effort to simplify life, my partner and I gave them all away.  This year, our Christmas tree is metaphorical — a nine-foot tall ficus, hung only with plain white lights and bits of glass to magnify the reflection.  

It pleases me in a way that past trees, buried under mountains of things, never did. 

Am I the only one who longs for a simpler time?