Notes From Swan's Nest

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Extreme Christmas Makeover

Preparing for Christmas this year was a totally different experience, and yet it reminded me of celebrations long ago. Usually, Randy and I drive to Swan's Nest in early December in plenty of time to select and cut a tree, decorate the house, hang lights outdoors, and bake cakes, breads, and hundreds of cookies.

This year, for a number of reasons, we arrived exactly one week before Christmas. No twinkling lights on our large spruce trees greeted us as we drove up the driveway, no swags of holiday greenery entwined with lights proclaimed the season, and there was no hint of Christmas indoors. With very little time before our son Timothy arrived for the Holidays, I launched into an extreme Christmas makeover.

As I pulled out boxes of decorations from the barn and moved them to the house, I was reminded of the many Christmases we celebrated in Colorado from the time our boys were infants. With only days remaining until Christmas, Randy and I would pack the car with suitcases filled with warm clothing and boxes of carefully-hidden presents, and before dawn, the four of us and our German Shepherd would set out for the fourteen-and-a-half hour drive from Dallas to the tiny town of Dillon, Colorado.

By the time we reached Colorado Springs, it was always dark and often snowing. We'd stop there briefly at a tree lot to purchase our Christmas tree, since they were very expensive in Dillon. One year, we bought a tree for $15; another year it was $6, and once, the owner simply gave us the tree. For a young family on a tight budget, that was a special gift. Randy would tie it securely to the top of our car and we'd be back on the highway in less than thirty minutes.

Randy's parents owned a two-bedroom condo in Dillon and graciously made it available to us each Christmas. We'd arrive tired after the long drive, but excited. The next day, I would go downstairs to the storage room and bring up two boxes of Christmas decorations – greenery for the mantel, ribbons for the chandelier over the dining table, two strings of lights, a limited number of decorations for the tree, and an electric candle for the kitchen window. It was simple, but festive, and as we decorated our little apartment, with snow softly falling outside our windows, the togetherness we experienced was all we needed.

These memories of simpler times encouraged me to scale back as I prepared for Christmas this year. I hauled fewer boxes of decorations from the barn, left some surfaces undecorated, and baked fewer cakes and cookies. Randy and I still cut down our tree, and once he arrived, Timothy helped us decorate it while Christmas music played in the background and a warm, cheerful fire glowed in the hearth. While the guys were out cross-country skiing, I created a magical Christmas scene on our dining table, since it's around the table so many cherished family memories are made.

I'll probably pull out all the stops again next year, and I'll share the process with you, but for now, I can truly say it has been a Very Merry and Blessed Christmas. May the blessings of this Christmas Season remain with you and your loved ones throughout the New Year.

-Christy