hang your heart on a tree

by rebecca on February 8, 2010

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       I’ve been hanging hearts on a tree to tell my family I love them for over a decade. We have a little bouquet of branches I call the Family Tree that sits atop the piano. It came to me one year as I was taking down the Christmas tree and was saddened by the hole left there. I needed an altared space.

       This tree stays with me all year long and holds ornaments throughout the year to tell the story of my family as they grow up. In the spring it holds colored eggs. In the winter it sparkles with snowflakes of gratitude.

       Now it’s waiting to be decorated with hearts that tell my family I love them. The hearts remind me of stories I tell my children and husband. The hearts that hung here the first year of the family tree were made of construction paper folded in half, then scribbled with a missive of simple adoration.

       “You love squirrels!” it said on my 1-year-old son’s heart the year he stood at our upstairs window that faced the park and pointed with utter enthusiasm at each and every squirrel.

       “Your dress is a basket for chestnuts,” that same year when my 4-year-old daughter collected the precious leavings from my favorite all-time tree.

       The hearts are hidden around the house as a little treasure hunt and the children and my husband search for my love before hanging them on the tree to look at for several months.

       As everyone got older and I was no longer chasing toddlers, our hearts evolved. One year I hung pictures on one side and wrote the note on the other. For several years, when things were super high pressure, the hearts were made of velvet paper and they simply collected their color along with a note written in red lipstick on the bathroom mirror.

       Then things settled down in life and I found that inner artist again. I began making these little art pieces. The colors symbolize some growth I’ve seen in them this year and I write a little letter to them describing why I’m proud or touched or in love with them. The note welcomes them to breakfast. Past years’ hearts are hidden around the house to hang on the tree.

       Some years the heart allows me a much needed pause. One year my son’s heart was the color of fire. We’d fought a great deal that year. He has a fiery disposition and we butted heads, but he also warmed the hearth of my life. Taking time to reflect gave me the chance to reframe the history we’re making. After the gift of his heart, my son saw our fiery exchanges not as war zones but as balls of sunshine we’re tossing back and forth.

       With all this love and history gathered into one place it helps to focus me and see my growing family; the lessons we’ve learned and the people we’re becoming. The beauty of the tree is a reflection of how lovely I find my family…imperfections and all.

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Yvette Francino April 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm

You have such wonderful traditions. It’s wonderful that you have this altered space to celebrate your love of your family throughout the year.

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