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WE PUT THE CHRISTMAS TREE UP TODAY.  I know.  You are right.  It isn't even Thanksgiving yet.  I get it.  But this is our Thanksgiving week tradition.  Right after we go on break for school, we put up our tree.  Actually, we were one day late.  We usually put it up on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

We started the tradition two years ago.  I realized that I could spend all of my Thanksgiving week knowing that the weekend before school starts again to be the best time to put up the tree, but as a result, I spent the week running through a to-do list in my head.  So, I decided to use the days I already had, and we put up the tree.  

I was raised Lutheran, so I had the good sense to feel guilty about it.  What kind of Christmas-obssessed, ungrateful and selfish person would put up their tree before Thanksgiving?  We don't do things simply because they are convient.  But then my children spent the week laying on the carpet gazing up at the bright lights of the tree with contented smiles.  "Think about it, Christmas."  The Boy said over and over.  

Teachers understand that time is precious.  If you've got a week off with no school, you are determined to make the most of it.  If I can put up my tree now, then I can spend the weeks leading up to Christmas break enjoying it.  Plus, my sister and her husband who live in Mexico, come to visit around Thanksgiving each year.  They are missionaries and we never get to see them, so when they come to town, I don't want to spend my time handing stockings.  Christmas is one thing, but Sisterhood is another.

There is something about the lights of the Christmas tree that always fills my heart with thankfulness.  I am thankful that we share this cozy apartment with just enough space for all of us.  I am grateful that my children are happy and friendly, and behave themselves most of the time.  I am thankful that when I see my husband from across the room, I still smile because he is handsome and sweet and my very best pal.  I am grateful for a warm home, and a full refridgerator -- although we need to stop buying ice cream.

We have so much, and as I often tell the Offspring, "There are people right now, dreaming of what we have."  It is true.  And I am ever mindful of all those I know who this holiday season marks another year when they will be without someone they love dearly.  I miss my Grandparents and the way their eyes would light up when they saw my children.  I miss my good friends and all the years that have gone by without them.  I miss their laughter, and the sounds of their voices.

I love the holiday season.  I love that I have the gift of extra time with my family, and I am especially grateful that my family (with the exception of my sister) all live fairly close.  My in-laws live in the same complex we do, and my own parents live less than 1/2 a mile away.  We are spoiled and surrounded with family.  I look forward to the days ahead, and I no longer feel the least bit guilty that I write this in front of the glow of my early Christmas tree.

--Jen