“Get me some tinsel”, my friend said. Earlier that year she had been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She was hospitalized due to some complications and it was close to the holidays. She rang me and asked if I could decorate her room as I had when I spent a month in the hospital. We had discussed several times how making it less like a hospital and more like a getaway was healing. I was up for the challenge, but thought, “Where am I going to find tinsel?” “Do they even sell it anymore?” I headed to the Dollar General in hopes that I could locate this cheesy long past holiday item. As luck would have it I found it, that is after searching several boxes of stuff.
The elves and I began to decorate her room, but I was at a loss as to what to do with the tinsel. We didn’t really have a tree so it was just splashed here and there. The look on her face was priceless. As I drove home with bags of leftover decorations in my car I began to think about the tinsel. It’s like the Easter grass of Christmas! It gets everywhere! Why? Why would she want this horrible crap from the seventies? I remember being a little girl and tossing it on our tree with my mom. I also remember getting older and hating the tacky shimmering of it. I worked for years as a visual merchandiser and on average I would decorate around 50 if not more trees a year. Some had to look exactly alike others came with their own tree plan on exactly how many ornaments and what types needed to be placed on the tree. There was no tinsel.
That night after everyone went to bed I sipped some wine and stared at my tree’s glowing lights. I remembered how much fun I would have as a child decorating. My mom would just pull this old blue suitcase out filled with ornaments and let me go to town. As I got older considering the work I did I needed my tree at home to be perfect too. The lights alone would take me all day. My perfect although had no plan. Each ornament held a memory for me. After I married and had children we added to those memories. I happily let the kids help decorate the tree with me and maybe here or there moved an ornament or two after they went to bed. Then that night it happened. Wine in glass, all alone I grabbed a handful of tinsel and threw it on my tree. I started to cry.
I pulled the tinsel all around the tree, adding it and taking it away from some places. Why was I crying? You might assume that I was crying for my friend, but I was crying for me. I was crying for the time I had spent trying to make things “perfect” when the perfection was just in being present and being myself. No one cared about the lights, or the perfectly picked out ornaments. I knew I was going to get some slack for the tinsel. Everyone has an opinion these days. I have heard it all throughout the years. “Your tree looks weird? Nice Charlie Brown tree. Your tree is too big! Your tree is too small! How many lights? That’s too many? You have so many ornaments! Real trees have bugs, you could get ticks! Oh, it’s a fake tree? We only get a live one.” Heard them all. But when I tossed that tinsel something inside of me was set free from the judgement. I swear I could smell my mom cooking in the kitchen and hear my brothers arriving home for the holidays.
My friend made it home and on the next Christmas I not only gifted her with a box of tinsel, but I bought one for myself.
Guess what I did yesterday when I was all alone? I opened up my box of tinsel and showered it all over my tree. No wine needed. Did I cry? Nope, but I laughed and laughed. My kids no longer want to help me decorate and that’s okay. I loved what we had, but I also love what is happening right NOW. My friend is still here teaching me (and the world) lessons everyday.