I came dangerously close to not putting up a Christmas tree this year.
First, my rheumatoid arthritis and achy joints made the thought of climbing up and down the attic ladder over and over and over seem a little off-putting.
Second, I thought I was going to my parents’ house for Christmas, so really, what was the point?
And finally, when my mother announced they were coming to MY house this year, I hauled the (fake, pre-lit) tree out of the attic, all by my lonesome girl power, only to find that only one sixth of the lights worked. So I sat in the middle of my living room floor and cried. If I had a boyfriend or a husband, this would be his problem, not mine. I know…Gloria Steinem would have kicked my ass.
Then I spent the next few days hostilely staring down the bare, unlit tree from my perch on the couch, slowly creating an ulcer in the pit of my stomach, as the symbol of the season seemingly laughed at me under my very own roof.
I was ready to throw it out.
And then my dad came to visit and helped me get a real tree at Lowe’s which is now happily set up in my living room, lights blazing, boxes of Christmas ornaments surrounding it.
Because even at my worst moments, balancing precariously on the attic ladder or kicking and screaming on the living room floor, I knew in the end that some kind of Christmas tree, even if it was a Charlie Brown tree, would spend the season lighting up my living room.
Here’s why: I have the best collection of ornaments in the world.
I’m not bragging. I’m not exaggerating. This collection should have its own curator. For years, I’ve purchased unique and memorable dangling objects, not just at Christmas, but in September in France, May in Las Vegas, December in New Orleans, springtime at Biltmore Estate, August in Ireland, October in San Francisco. I’ve had friends with whom our yearly gift exchange meant giving each other very personal, signature ornaments. My mom and I have spent hours crocheting, knitting, and painting over the years to create one-of-a-kind objets d’art that no one else can lay claim to. And every year my mother still forces herself to hang the horrid felt Mickey Mouse I made in Girl Scouts, the egg carton bell I made in pre-school, and the orange Syracuse ornament I sent her my freshmen year. (Okay, fine, so I MAKE her hang them. Whatever.)
I’m excited every year to pull out the boxes of ornaments and remember wonderful trips with special friends where we laughed, drank, ate and, yes, shopped. I love to pull out all the trinkets I’ve made over the years–painted wooden gingerbread houses, crocheted snowmen, beaded candy canes. I get a kick out of my glass Hulk, my Spiderman dangling from his webs, and Wonder Woman whipping out the lasso. And I love holding the delicate handblown glass and watching the tiny white lights glow behind them.
There are the portly burlesque mermaids on floating glass bubbles that I got in the Garden District in New Orleans after Nicole and I hunted down Trent Reznor’s house. There is the tiny white “USA” sweater from Express that sort of fell into my bag at the Charleston Inn in Charleston. There’s the mini leg lamp ornament, a la “A Christmas Story.” Oh, and you should see, and lift, the metal and cloisonné orb from Asheville’s Biltmore Estate–it weighs about a ton, I think. I have mini mailboxes, one made up to look like a cow and the other a pig, from my friend Alison O., that she gave me one year when were getting our Masters degrees at NYU. And the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the glass wine bottles from wine country and the ceramic pierrots playing string instruments and the Starbucks espresso pot ornament!
I’m so glad that I picked myself up off the floor, stopped crying, and decided to put up a tree anyway. People put up Christmas trees for many reasons—to make their kids happy, to match their living room furniture, to celebrate a religious holiday, to give Dad something to do over Thanksgiving weekend so Mom can shop in peace—but between you and me, I just do it to play with the shiny, sparkly toys.