We hosted an intimate holiday gathering at our new home over the holidays. As is our custom, our famous thankfulness chain adorned one wall. This year the chain had a mate, a handsome new chain festooned with a turkey family made from hand-shaped cut-outs.
In December we added to the atmosphere, spending afternoons painstakingly slicing small shapes from folded construction paper, turning our cozy cottage home into an indoor snow rainbow.
Once our hypoallergenic plastic tree entered the picture the physical embodiment of our mentalities through holiday decor truly took shape. We covered her branches in homemade ornaments saved from 10 years of building our life together, which in turn transformed our home into a masterpiece.
Our home became a visual walk-through our life’s stages. Our childless years were represented by painstakingly created 3-D ornaments representing inside jokes, visual representation of limber-bodied days, adventurous couplings represented with pipe cleaners and glue. The early child years, where we were determined to keep tradition alive, could be seen through paint splotches on cardboard, cut into shapes with years and names written in my hurried mother’s scrawl.
There were paper plate ornaments of early childhood classrooms, hand prints with poems about tiny fingers and growth. We had branches of gingerbread men, all overly eager to share a smile, with lopsided buttons that made me long to reach into the past and tousled the hair of my babies. What is it about the smell of cinnamon and pine that reminds me more strongly of baby soap mixed with play dough than the actual scent? Every wall and branch was a visceral reminder that we created a gorgeous life out of twigs and glue.
When we had our little get together in December, sharing our new home with new and old friends, it was jarring to share this portrait of my interior. We are a messy family, one constructed with hopes on thin paper, not necessary with plans laid on firm concrete. I made a slightly self-deprecating comment in the beginning of the evening to ease my discomfort. One of our guests looked around and loudly proclaimed, “You are like a working class Martha Stewart! Look at your decorations, so much paper, how lovely!” A Martha Stewart for the real world. It feels good to be understood.