Scout and the Christmas Tree

Having a rambunctious little cat has changed my life in ways I cannot begin to describe. But one thing I can describe is how it has changed Christmas. Years past saw a tree in nearly every room but that won’t be happening with an eight month old kitten.

He’s a good little cat and doesn’t get into a lot. Yet he’s still a kitten and all those fun things hanging off it would be tempting.

I plotted for weeks to design a tree situation he couldn’t knock down while climbing and swinging. Just when I thought I was ready for anything, he threw a curveball.

Turns out, he’s not interested in climbing so much as chewing on the pine.

He loves to chew on artificial pine. While it seems that he’s just chewing and not eating it, I don’t trust that he won’t try. And this is a chance I’m not prepared to take.

So there’s just one tree in my house this year (behind a closed door) and it’s devoted to my adventures. It’s my travel tree. I wrote all about it last year but, in a nut shell, I collect ornaments from my adventures. Each ornament is hung with a postcard that relates a trip memory.

Most of my ornaments aren’t real Christmas ornaments and I like it that way. There’s a stuffed jackalope bank from Douglas, Wyoming and a small metal airplane to mark my first biplane ride this year.

There’s a vintage snowman found at an Indiana antique store during last year’s antiquing adventures across the National Road. I even have a pennant from the Ernest Tubb Record Store in Nashville and a small handmade quilted piece from Ocracoke Island.

The list goes on and on and each ornament evokes countless memories – both happy and bittersweet. One new ornament represents the daily adventure of having Scout in my life.

The tree is now up and Scout gets supervised playtime in that room. So far he has only tried to chew and has batted at a couple of low hanging ornaments. I’m hoping he will outgrow that chewing thing and that next Christmas will be back to normal.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, Click here to read last year’s description of the travel tree. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start a new tradition of your own!

Adventures Revisited: Decorating A Travel Tree

One of my favorite traditions is to collect Christmas ornaments from the amazing places I go in this world. Each ornament gets its own postcard or tag with a trip memory written on the back. Then both the ornament and memory are displayed on a tree devoted only to my travels.

Sometimes the ornaments are actual Christmas ornaments. More often than not, they’re things that I purpose into an ornament.

A stuffed buffalo from Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, a toy plane from the day my dad and I saw the Memphis Belle together (that was our first big adventure just the two of us), a glass sun catcher from a trip to Wytheville, Virginia with my mother and a Canadian flag from Toronto are part of this collection.

Most items are new but a few are vintage like a souvenir pennant from Hollywood. When I visited back in 2004 I wasn’t collecting ornaments and I recently found this vintage piece in an antique store.

I decorated that tree this week and had a fun time reminiscing about my adventures. It was especially rewarding reliving this year’s fun with friends – Utah with Johnna, Fallingwater with Meria, Pittsburgh with Nichola and Virginia with my mother as well as the solo adventures I had this fall made me smile.

There are a few ornaments that I was careful not to read the tags or think about too much when I pulled them from the tote. Some memories are bittersweet enough they’re best left undisturbed. Maybe next year I’ll be ready.

But this is an overwhelmingly happy tree to decorate and enjoy throughout the season. Seeing the Biltmore decorated for Christmas was a bucket list item that I checked off a few years ago. Memphis is where I paid my respects to Elvis and where I saw BB King play in his club on Beale Street. A vintage toy train reminds me of my solo road trip through rural Indiana while a toy soldier reminds me of the morning I watched the sun rise over the George Rogers Clark Memorial and the tour I had inside the memorial – just me and a National Park Service Ranger. That Hollywood pennant reminds me of one warm Easter Sunday spent at Venice Beach. That was the only Easter I’ve spent away from home. A decorative Santa Claus tells the story of road tripping through Canada and finding the unexpected in Toronto last year.

I’ve never regretted taking a trip or the occasional sacrifice necessary so I can afford to do so. This tree is a testament to why.

Travel enlightens. It reminds us of our place in this world and how small we are. It teaches us about other people, their traditions and values. It gives us a release, an opportunity to escape reality and have fun.

It’s good for us.

I’m already dreaming of the next adventure and wondering what memories I’ll add to the tree next year.