My oldest was sick and had a day off school when I decided to descend to the basement and bring up our Christmas tree. I figured that after a weekend of pneumonia, no sleep, and croup we all deserved a bit of merriment called twinkling lights in our house. 

So I brought our fake tree up the stairs and placed it by our stone fireplace. Put the festive tree skirt underneath and plugged in the white lights. 

In my mind it was going to look all Pottery Barn-like. Winter white, twinkling lights, silvery glitter, with a few homemade ornaments thrown in. 

Santa Baby was blasting from the speakers while me and my two oldest kiddos were singing along and stringing silver ribbon around the tree.

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. 

But then Tigger needed to sit in the tree. At least that’s what the three-year-old told me as she took her stuffed animal her daddy bought her from Disney World, climbed the ladder, and carefully placed him near the top of the tree.

And since Tigger was in the tree Eeyore needed to be close by. At least that’s what the six-year-old told me as he gently placed the somber donkey from the Hundred Acre Woods into our family tree. 

Before I could protest the kids had gathered a whole team of their favorite stuffed animals. New favorites like Branch from the Troll movie and a few old friends like the bears they’d each been given on the day of their birth started sticking their heads out from between the limbs.

My Pottery-Barn tree had quickly been hijacked by a fleet of stuffed animals. It was beginning to look a lot like a gaudy Christmas. I started to pull off the coyote beanie baby and replace him with a snow-covered star, but stopped. 

“Isn’t this the prettiest tree ever” asked my son as he stared into those magical lights. 

I looked up at him and my daughter. The pride painted on their faces. And then I looked at the ugly troll sticking out of the tree. 

“Yep, it sure is” I told him as my cringe transformed into a smile. And I meant it. I really did. 

So instead of taking down coyote I picked up a stuffed dinosaur from the floor and put him on the tree. Then I tucked my body into our leather couch and just sat and watched. Drank coffee. Rocked my infant. Listened to my kids having a magical morning of arranging the tree to the tune of their own hearts. Making new ornaments out of found objects dear to their souls. 

The entire morning was filled with delight. My daughter kept sticking her head up the chimney and proclaiming, “I hope Santa comes!” 

My son whistled along to Feliz Navidad and every other song that came on the Holly station. 

My tree is now filled with a hodge-podge of Hallmark and homemade and plush animals. But it’s filled with love. It’s what happened when I let my kids be kid and I abandoned ideals and instead embraced the season of child-like joy. 

And tonight as midnight approaches and I’m sitting in the quiet of my house I look at my tree and really do think it’s the most stunning tree in the world. It might not grace the cover of Southern Living or Pottery Barn, but it’s absolutely perfect for this mama who loves nothing more than watching her kids delight in the majesty of Christmas. 

Sarah Philpott

Sarah Philpott Ph.D lives in the south east on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her two mischievous children (with one on the way!) and is farm wife to her high school sweetheart. A former teacher, she now spends this season of her life cleaning peanut butter & jelly off the counter, dreaming of traveling the world, hosting “get-togethers” for her family & friends, and chasing her kids around the farm. Sarah is represented by The Blythe Daniel Literary Agency. You can visit with Sarah at her blog where she writes about cultivating a life of down-home simplicity. She also has a passion for helping women cope with pregnancy loss.