What do you think of when I mention Christmas trees?
Me? One word: anxiety. Yes, anxiety. That’s what comes to my mind when I think about Christmas trees. Just…anxiety. A great big ball of anxiety.
It doesn’t seem to matter if the tree is artificial or fresh. White or green. Flocked or naked. White lights or colored. Blinking lights…twinkling lights…or not.
The very thought of Christmas trees makes me feel like I swallowed a ball of fresh, evergreen garland…the kind with the prickly Scotch Pine needles.
It hasn’t always been this way.
I remember, as a child, staring at our family’s big, shiny aluminum Christmas tree, with the color wheel that twirled around, and feeling peace. Feeling joy. Feeling something like contentment.
But it’s been years since I felt anything like that. 25 years of feeling anything but anxiety about Christmas trees.
It’s not every Christmas tree. Just the one that will adorn my home.
I can sort of enjoy other trees, especially those big, beautiful trees that stand majestically at Rockefeller Center or in the Boston Common. If not enjoy, I can appreciate the work done to make them look perfect. Or those amazing department store trees! Impressive and perfect…but not mine.
For twenty five years I’ve had this odd anxiety about my Christmas tree without ever really understanding or even acknowledging it. Mind you, my Christmas Tree anxiety has never stopped me from putting up a tree. Heavens, no! In fact, I’ve often punished myself with two or more trees in one season.
For the record, my basement is bursting with trees, lights and various decorations from years past.
I have two white trees, one I procured from Filene’s for a steal (it was gorgeously decorated at Filene’s, of course) and a smaller one I thought would make a good window tree. I have the artificial one I tried to pass on to a friend last year. It’s a beautiful Scotch Pine lookalike from Target, but it has the weirdest set up I’ve ever seen. The branches–nearly 100 of them–are color coded AND alphabetized, but not well. Far from helpful, in my opinion.
Then there is the aluminum tree I won on eBay the year my Dad died. I thought for sure it would evoke memories of the gorgeous silver Pom Pom tree of my youth, but it fell short of my expectations. I couldn’t even get it to stand up correctly.
I’ve got at least five Christmas tree stands–the heavy wrought iron ones from fancy catalogs–from my fresh tree days.
A stroll through my cellar will reveal all kinds of garland, ribbon by the box load, colored lights, strands of beads, stars and tree toppers of every persuasion. I’ve got boxes of vintage Shiny Brite ornaments and other boxes of personalized ornaments dating back to my childhood. There’s trimmings from last year’s Corgi Christmas Tree, which IMHO was as close to perfection as I have come in the last decade.
There’s also enough things to decorate in any style you could think of: Victorian, Shabby Chic, Art Deco, and even blue and green decorations from my attempt at a “mid-century modern” Christmas.
You’d think after twenty five years of wrestling with Christmas Tree Anxiety, I’d figure out how to do it “right” or, at the very least, acknowledge I have a problem with Christmas trees, right?
Of course not.
It took my ten year old son, Master Owen, and a comment from a middle aged Jewish man I barely knew in my youth to finally acknowledge what has plagued me for years.
This year I was “surprised” when MO put the rebound green tree together without my help. It was all wrong, of course, because he didn’t follow the ridiculous color/letter codes on the branches. It looked horrendous! Branches that belonged on the bottom were sticking out toward the middle of the tree and there were holes everywhere, despite my attempts to “fluff” them. To make matters worse, the lights were incorrectly hung and the star wasn’t even close to to the top of tree!
My head, my heart and my stomach automatically launched into high anxiety mode. I couldn’t say anything. I just stared and stared at it. It looked awful. Everything about it was just…wrong. But then I looked at Master Owen and saw how proud of himself he was. He looked at me, knowing full well what I was thinking, and said: “Give it a while, Mum, it will grow on you”.
Grow on me? GROW on me? Was he insane?? Did he not know how much my Christmas Tree must be fussed over and worried about? How the lights had to be perfectly woven throughout the branches so as to create the proper dimension? Didn’t he understand that you simply couldn’t put the icicle garland on without making sure all of the individual icicles faced downward?
No, he didn’t understand.
I snuck away and called my childhood friend to kibbutz: “Can you believe it?!?” and “What was I going to do? How could I fix this, this monstrosity?”
His response instantly opened my eyes: “What’s more important to you? The tree or your son’s sense of accomplishment?”
Schooled again by Master Owen.