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When I was very young, we lived in a small, single wide trailer. The space was limited, with the washing machine in the one bathroom, and the clothes dryer set into a corner of the small living room. It was next to the clothes dryer that we always set up the Christmas tree, against the wall to allow for the rest of the floor space to be clear. This meant that there was just enough space between the branches of the tree and the dryer for the clothes dryer door to be opened and the controls to be reached. It was also just enough space for one wee little girl to scoot in and sit with back against the clothes dryer, feet tucked close, elbows on knees to support small chin on small hands....and gaze upward at the twinkling lights.
I was spellbound by the beauty of each year's Christmas tree. The tinsel softly shifting and catching and reflecting the tree lights. The tree lights themselves were a whole fascinating experience all their own. Who remembers the individual painted lightbulbs that had to be screwed into the individual sockets on the strings of Christmas tree lights? They also had individual, colored reflectors, stamped out of solid sheets of metal with fluted edges that could be deadly sharp, and these reflectors could be fitted between the light bulb and the socket, securing them as decoration.
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To a small child, the finished result, covered in clumps of silver tinsel when we would grow tired of the decorating process, was always beautiful. I could sit quietly tucked between the clothes dryer and Christmas tree and look at all the colors and textures. Gazing upward into the tree provided a whole different perspective than you could get from standing in front of it and viewing it. Looking upwards, all the lights cast a soft, lambent glow that seemed to fill the inner spaces of the tree and produce a fairytale atmosphere. Even at that young an age, I was weaving stories in my head about the things that captured my imagination.
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My older sister and brother were occupied with a game and we weren't interrupted....something very rare for the youngest of three, as I was, to get such an extended quiet moment with our Mom. She was raising us alone and dealing with very challenging circumstances. Money was always an issue, yet she found ways to make our childhood carefree, secure and content. And that particular evening, she indulged my whimsical nature by joining me and gazing at magic.
Eventually, something broke the spell and the moment ended. Dinner needed to be fixed, small bodies needed baths and bedtime loomed imminent. But for that one lovely moment, we just sat there together and gazed up from the floor into the heart of that Christmas tree, hypnotized and enthralled by the warm glow of lights and decorations. I can remember my Mom climbing to her feet, extending a hand to pull me up, and bending down to kiss me, saying, "Thank you, honey. That was beautiful. Let's do it again soon."
Have you ever tried this? This year during the winter holiday season, if you decorate a Christmas tree in your home, take a few moments to sit on the floor, close in to the tree, and gaze upwards into the center of it. I sometimes will even lie down on the floor and scoot directly underneath the tree to gain the best view. It might sound slightly bizarre, but I assure you it will provide you with a breathtaking experience. Clear your mind and simply gaze at the magic.
It might seem odd that this post was originally written during July, having Christmas as a focal point. I don't know why the thoughts twined together to produce this blog article with a Christmas theme during summer months in East Tennessee, but I feel it expressed a valuable and beloved memory that was worth sharing, regardless of the time of year.
Such are some of the blissful moments of my childhood. My beautiful Mom sheltered us from the challenging reality of admittedly difficult times and provided a secure, loving and nurturing home. She also allowed for those magical moments and on occasion, she would embrace them and join us. This Christmas tree moment is one of my most cherished memories. From that day and many others, I learned to embrace my ability to find magic in the most unexpected places and it is something that gives me particular joy. It is a connection to my wonderful Mom, who recognized that evening, that her youngest child was slightly different, slightly fey, and completely unique.
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