I have a confession to make. Now I know some of you will shake your head, and some of you will wonder if I’m hitting the crack pipe, but a few of you will simply nod in understanding. You know who you are, and don’t try to pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Apparently I am not the only one afflicted with this type of disorder. Ok, here it goes…I have a sort of twisted obsession with all things Christmas, particularly decorations. Every year, sometime after the first of November, like some sort of sick Martha Stewart groupie, I begin to fantasize about Christmas trees, Christmas ornaments, fluffy flocked Christmas tablescapes, candles scented with peppermint and cinnamon, trips to Merrifield Garden Center (the true MECCA of Christmas decorating enthusiasts in the DC area), fifty different kinds of cookies in every shape and size, bite-size cheesecakes and brownies, and several dozen varieties of other holiday confections, all of which I should just glue directly on my ass. I walk through craft stores, envisioning myself making more splendid holiday decorations (which anyone who knows me will tell you I CLEARLY do not need.) Just seeing the jars of brightly colored glitter and self-adhesive Swarovski crystals can make my eyes glaze over like some sort of wacko on a psychotic mission. Bill is still marvelling at my “Christmas affliction” although he will be the first to tell you he loves the finished product.
When I was a little girl, Christmas really was pure magic. Like many of my friends back in Northeastern PA, I grew up in a middle class blue collar home with parents who gave everything to make sure that my sister, my brothers, and I had the most wonderful Christmases. We didn’t have a lot of money, and I know Mom and Dad gave up many items for themselves so they could make our holidays every kid’s dream…and indeed they were. But more than the gifts, those holidays was filled with family moments of decorating the tree, sitting around the living room on Christmas Eve exchanging presents between us, and holiday open houses with neighbors and friends. I will never forget those times. They are etched permanently into my memory, and represent everything that Christmas is supposed to be. I try to give my daughter Tricia those same memories as best that I can. It’s a tall order to live up to because Mom and Dad were masters at this feat. I fear I will always fall short of my expectations.
And every year, our family would make its annual pilgrimage to Raves Garden Center to see the holiday displays. I was in complete awe of such Christmas splendour. I would study every themed tree, sometimes even critiquing in my mind how they could have improved the subject matter (to me it was truly an art form.) I couldn’t believe that there were Christmas trees in the world that were so beautiful. By the time I was a teenager, I had vowed to myself that someday, I too would have a themed Christmas tree, even better than the trees at Raves. And so it began…
By my mid-twenties, I had acquired countless boxes of ornaments, all themed and scarily coordinated. My tree was shades of pastel blue and white, and most of the decorations came in the form of angels. To this day I still have many of them. I would spend hours planning how I would decorate the tree, what I would invest in to add to the tree for that year, and how many lights I could put on said tree before it started to drain too much from the Washington, DC power grid. I would invite friends over to help me decorate my tree, although mostly they would just sit and drink margaritas or wine, because inevitably, they never put any of the ornaments in the right place. (I hope they have since forgiven me for that.) I would have special decorations for the fireplace mantle, the coffee table, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, doors, windows, even small decorations for my bird’s cage. It was all very matchy matchy, but I loved it.
As I hit my thirties and I married, I decided it was time to make the jump…to three trees. Now mind you, none of these beauties were “tabletop” size. These were three fully decorated, fully lit trees standing at six feet or more, each with its own theme. The living room tree had maintained its “angel” theme, although somehow a lot of seashore related items, as well as birds, had crept into the mix. Still, it was all shades of blue, with blue, teal and green lights, and iridescent “fluffy stuff” which was sprinkled all over the branches. It was a marvel indeed. The basement tree, which would shelter all of Santa’s gifts for my young daughter, was an ode to childhood memories…toy soldiers, candy-themed ornaments, blue, red and gold balls, musical instruments, and tons of novelty ornaments (you know, the ones you find in the Hallmark store.) Around it was a Dept. 56 Dickens village (completely lit) and teeny tiny people seemingly walking through its snow-covered streets (I actually took the time to build a platform for this.) For a long time, this tree was my personal favorite. When I divorced, I picked out my favourite ornaments and decorations, and left the rest for my ex-husband, so he’d be able to decorate something, although I was never sure what that would be. He does his best every year. Honestly, he should call me for some assistance.
My “dining room” tree was actually a 6 foot spiral topiary (I can’t even believe I actually found such a thing) decorated in whimsical fashion with tropical fish, tropical colored balls, tropical colored lights, and topped with a HUMONGOUS bow that can only be described as the colors of an LSD trip. I often describe this tree as being decorated by “elves on acid.” Truly, you needed sunglasses to even look it. As I have gotten older, this tree theme has become my favorite, probably because I have bad eyesight, and it is the easiest to see at a distance. Believe me, you could not miss it.
So here it is, November 10th, and yes, I’m yet again imagining how my beloved Christmas collection will grow. In recent years, I have seen the error of my ways (through therapy, meds, and a well thought out selection of self help books) and have managed to pare it down to two full size trees, a tasteful tablescape on the dining room table and miscellaneous decorations scattered throughout the house. And yes, I do have Christmas china…it makes its appearance every year at Thanksgiving and is put away New Year’s Day. I’m actually not big on outside decorations, but I’m contemplating asking Bill to put up some lights on the bushes in front of the house – not sure how this will go over, so stay tuned. I have vowed to never put anything in my yard that requires its own wind generator though. The trees are still the showpieces, and indeed, would rival anything Martha could put together. The living room tree has evolved into mostly birds, birds’ nests, and shore-themed ornaments. The lights are now all white, and, ohhhhh, when the living room is dark and the tree is plugged in, it is pure heaven. You’ll often find me lounging on the sofa with the lights off, the tree on, a glass of wine in my hand, and Nat King Cole playing in the background.
The basement tree is now the study in color therapy, and I’ve managed to add peacock feathers, sparkly branches, and even more bows and ribbon, along with an ever growing collection of brightly colored fish (don’t ask me where the fish thing comes from, I have no idea.) I’ve also managed to start a collection of fairies that reside under this tree, although I’m not sure how the fish are feeling about this. I think they would have preferred something more “fish/water oriented.” But the fairies are equally colourful, although a few of them more closely resemble fairy hookers, or at the very least, fairies with very loose morals. I didn’t intend for that to be the case. One should never shop for fairies after drinking a bottle of wine, or vodka.
I’m already counting my pennies for my trip to the Merrifield Garden Center’s Christmas Shop Extravaganza… it’s going to be a great holiday season, I can just tell. Somewhere in the back of mind, I see myself as an old woman, sitting in my house with all my Christmas trees (I’ll probably be up to five or six by then) like Miss Havisham and her wedding cake. I’ll be too old to take them down, so I’ll just leave them up all year, periodically knocking the dust off them. My family will all think I’ve lost my marbles, but I’ll be in my glory, and every day will be Christmas. What a nice thought.