Written By Koren Barwis

Originally posted on December 8, 2015 on korenbarwis.com

We put up our Christmas tree last night, a tradition I cherish and my husband dreads. He keeps campaigning for an artificial tree — less mess, less hassle — but I love the smell and imperfections of a real one. So we went to the same nursery that we go to every year, found a great tree, loaded it up, and got it home. Then the fun (and cursing) really started — trying to get the tree straight in the stand.



We have a heavy-duty, top-of-the-line stand that has three long legs and three big bolts. I do the tightening while my hubby holds the tree. After several attempts, we finally got it pretty close to straight.

Next, I strung the lights, white and red, the latter a nod to my mom’s tree. Then the girls and I started with the ornaments, hanging our favorites first. We have a wide variety of special mementos collected over the years in the Henderson (my Mom), Barwis (Bob’s family) and my households. With resident dogs and a cat, as well as visiting toddlers, we all know better than to put any fragile ornaments near the bottom. The girls bored quickly, so I put on the finishing touches — baubles, balls, and ribbons. Lastly, Ruby had her annual honor of placing our Santa tree-topper. Voila, perfection.

Just as I drifted off to sleep, I heard a loud crash. Bob confirmed my fears that the tree had toppled over and no, it wasn’t the animals’ fault; they were all accounted for.

I jumped out of bed in my sleepshirt and ran barefoot into the sunroom. What a sad sight — our beautiful tree face down with water pooling everywhere (because of course I had just filled the base). Ornaments were scattered, some shattered. One particularly sad casualty was a porcelain goose with dangling webbed feet that belonged to my mom; its body in pieces. Thankfully none of my stepkids’ ornaments from their early childhood with their mom were ruined in the fall.

After a few long moments and deep sighs, we propped the tree back up, securing the base extra tightly. It was a little askew, but it was upright. Ruby feared it would fall again, so she removed all her favorite ornaments. I sopped up the water and went to bed with a heavy heart.

My Mom always said things look better in the morning light and the tree was no exception. When I got up the next day, it didn’t look quite as disordered as it had last night. I turned on the lights and they all still worked. Albeit askew, the tree looked beautiful in a disheveled, imperfect way.

And it dawned on me – this was a metaphor for my life.

There was a time when I thought I had the perfect life – every bauble in place, every ribbon draped impeccably. But then my life fell on its face and there was breakage and displacement. In time, I picked my life back up, propped it up (sturdier this time), and started over. It was never the same, actually it was better.

I was half-tempted to leave the tree as it stood that morning, a wonderful symbol of imperfection, renewal, and tenacity, but the Pinterest mom in me just couldn’t do it. I put the ornaments back on, adjusted the ribbons, even added a few extra bows. Now it is a stunning reminder that sometimes life topples your tree. Just prop it back up, clean up the mess, and start again.


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