December 11, 2017
Well….of course I can. What a question. But it was an issue for me. Because my Christmases have almost always been celebrated around a decorated “Christmas Tree.” There were those lean years as a single mom that meant spending money for a tree meant cutting back on presents, so trees were out. I wanted my son to enjoy Christmas abundance even if it meant no tree. We always had other decorations out, stockings, things inherited from my Grams, but a few years it was my Ficus tree decorated with tiny lights, ribbon bows and candy canes. Festive yes, but not exactly the Christmas vision in my head.
Looking back those Christmases were some of the best. We had a big, over the top dinner, presents picked out just for my son and homemade Christmas cards, cookies and candy for friends. There was an abundance of love. That was enough.
As my finances improved, so did our Christmas celebrations, there was money for a tree, perhaps just a small one, but a tree nonetheless. And always the stocking filled to the brim with all manner of goodies. There were Christmases filled with friends, music and laughter and those big dinners.
I don’t know when the tree became such a big deal to me. Decorating a tree was something I looked forward to, year after year. I loved the white lights, the old ornaments, the sparkle. Decorating a tree to me is an art form. Each branch must have multiple ornaments, beginning with larger ones at the trunk and ending with tiny decorations on the tips of the branches. I use dozens of decorations. Bins and boxes of ornaments were stored waiting for their holiday release. It could take anywhere from two days to five to get it just right.
When Mr B and I moved into this house with the high ceilings, we got a 10 foot tree. Not a huge tree by today’s standards, but I was in Christmas Heaven!! It was time to buy even more ornaments. Insert smiley face and ignore Mr Grumpy Pants over in the corner. Each year I give a new ornament to every family member. I started this tradition when Trev was very young and now his old ornaments have been passed down to his children, the ones we can still find anyway, apparently he was denied the hoarding gene. sigh.
I continued the tradition after marrying Mr B and with the addition of the Grands, I’m a happy ornament shopping Grams! As the kids grow into adulthood and leave to begin lives of their own, they’ll have a box of Christmas memories to enjoy and a head start on decorating their own trees. It’s a tradition that I still follow today, even thought the kids are grown, they still get a new Christmas ornie each year. It’s sweet to see the progression of ornaments, from Super Heroes and Princesses to more sophisticated choices, they’ve grown up and out grown the super heroes, although I still have princesses, I mean come on! Princesses born are Princesses forever. Right??
Where was I? Oh, the year of the 10 footer. I was beyond excited! I got to shop for new ornaments for me! ME!!! Oh joy! (Still ignoring Mr Grumpy Pants.) Those days there was a tree in every room in the house, even the bathrooms. Furniture had to be moved to make room, regular decor needed to be packed away to make room for Christmas. I was the Queen of Christmas! In some rooms there were 2 trees, sometimes 3. These were mostly small but they were still trees, and each room had its own theme.
The dining room had a 7 foot tree and was snowflakes and snow people. Mr B’s small tree was aviation inspired, a nod to his military service as an F16 pilot and then a commercial airline guy. His bathroom was all about golf, the guest bedroom was always festooned with girlie Christmas and the guest bath was my junker’s tree, decorated with escutcheons, door knobs and skeleton keys. A woodland tree and Santa decorated the tiny living room and the kitchen tree was an ode to eating, adorned with cookie cutters, old spoons and tiny china cups and saucers. You get the idea. There were trees, lots and lots of trees. The first year we had the “big” tree I was embarrassed at how skimpy the decorations were. But no one else seemed to care in the free-for-all of opening gifts. I hit the after Christmas sales and loaded up, determined not to feel embarrassed again.
As the kids got older so did I, and decorating that tree became a bit of an issue since I had to climb a ladder to decorate the top. I have major back issues and it became painful to “do’ the tree. Still I persisted. Mr B is not the Christmas King, he went along for the ride when the kids were young and even when the Grands were still living close by. But the tree was my domain and he was happy to let me have at it. He would put it up, and do the lights and hand the holiday baton to me. Then the miracle of pre-lit trees!!! He no longer had to fuss with, or fix those pesky light strings. He could put the tree sections together, place it where I wanted it, plug it in, then go enjoy a glass of beer while watching college football, or golf, or god forbid, tennis, while I fluffed, and cajoled the tree into shape and did my magic thing, turning faux into fabulous.
I gave up our 10 footer several years ago, it was just too much. So we gave it to our neighbors and bought a smaller 7½ footer. It lasted a couple of years but succumbed to the heat in the attic and disintegrated. Enter “Gloria.” A flocked, glorious pre-lit beauty. I loved Gloria with a Christmas passion, I moved all the Hallmark and brightly colored ornaments to a small 4 foot tree in the family room. Nothing but silver and gold and copper for Gloria. Oh my, the days spent getting the ornaments just right. Again I was spending 2-3 days bending over, stooping, squatting and yes, standing on a little stool to place Grandma’s angel. My back couldn’t take it even though I had stopped with the whole ornies on every branch thing. Besides, Gloria had like 700 tips or something astronomical like that. Even I couldn’t justify purchasing 1,000 ornies.
Plus there was Mr B who became a stranger, known only as Mr Grumpy Pants when it came time to move the bins, bags and boxes of “Christmas
crap beauty,” down from the roof furnace, otherwise known as that “hotter than hell” attic crawl space. It took an afternoon, then I commandeered the ladder and headed to my closet’s top shelves to remove even more boxes of precious Christmas decor that couldn’t take the heat in hell. It was quite the production.
Last year I had to be honest and say it was too much. I cut back, I sent boxes of ornies to my Dil, I stopped with most of the trees, I had only 3 or 4 small ones plus Gloria. It required 3 trips to the chiropractor and a couple of days in bed, but I got the house decorated for our Christmas party and I was happy.
Putting it all away was a chore. I’m not one to keep Christmas up for long, by the time January 1 rolls around I’m craving simplicity. It takes longer to pack everything up because of course things have to be wrapped, placed in original boxes, etc etc. There are boxes stacked for days during the take down. And even I begin to wear Grumpy Pants, although mine are prettier than Mr B’s. When it’s finally all put away, Mr B is happy not having to crawl into the hotter then hell attic for another year. He returns to his good-natured self the minute that attic door slams shut and he can say goodbye to Christmas and Mr Grumpy Pants. Me? I’m already making notes to myself for Christmas the next year. My Grumpy Pants are stored with the ghosts of Christmas Past.
This year, I actually dreaded getting the tree out. WHAT???? Was I ill? Did I suddenly catch a bad case of Grumpitis?? What the hell was wrong with me? I just wasn’t looking forward to all the pain and the issues that decorating Gloria would cause, what with the chiro visits and pain meds. So I made the decision to sell Gloria. Then I spent a couple of days whining and being the guest of honor at my very own pity party. How could I have Christmas? What would the house be without a treeee??? Oh whine, and then whine some more. I became ashamed of myself. Here I was, whining about not having a tree when so many have no homes, no money for gifts, and may not even know where they will be living January 1st. That put things in perspective.
So Gloria was sold to a nice family who promised to glorify her with lots of ornaments and sing carols around her. I brought out the little 4 foot tree and decorated him with lots and lots and LOTS of ornies. I still had to bend and twist to do the little tree even though it was on a table, and I still had to see my chiro. Sooo, it’s a sure thing, I need to make even more changes.
The funny thing is, I’m OK with that. Not having a larger, main tree actually stirred my creative juices. I started donating boxes of ornies and greenery. I sold several more things. The more I sold and gave away the more excited I became. The years “Of Hallmark” didn’t make it down from the attic. I could have a simple farmhouse Christmas! Yes!!! If your idea of simple is greenery adorning every surface, and bowls of ornaments and fairy lights, then Yes! It will be a simple Christmas.
Next year there may not be a tree at all and I’m OK with that. I already have ideas for using some of my more precious ornaments. Or maybe I’ll have a pencil tree, pre-lit, unadorned except for the lights and the angel. Maybe not. Christmas isn’t about the tree. It’s about spending time with family, it’s about generosity and love. It’s about the birth of Christ. I’m definitely OK with that.
Create your Christmas sanctuary no matter where you live. Use a tree…..or not. Love the home you’re in.