Chuck and I put up our Christmas tree this weekend. It’s a fake tree and for as much as I hate its synthetic, shiny branches it was ridiculously easy to drag up from the basement—pre-lit—and plop in front of the window. Add a few pine scented candles and voila, our redneck neighbors won’t be none the wiser.
So there I was: glass of wine in one hand; hairy psycho Santa in the other. I stuck him on a branch and stood back to inspect his placement.
Then, the questions started. Is the ornament next to one that complements its colors? Is it the appropriate weight for the branch? Is the size of the ornament relative to its position on the tree? Should the ornament be grouped with ornaments similar in theme? Is the ornament facing in the right direction?
I don’t enjoy the mental check list, but it’s ingrained. My mother took tree decorating very, very, very seriously. She had four siblings and, as she tells it, never got to put the ornaments where she wanted. Which is why when I was a child, after I had put up an ornament, she would sneak over to the tree when I wasn’t looking and move it. While Alvin and Simon duked it out on the record player, my parents duked it out treeside.
My father [to my mother]: “Why did you move that snowman?”
My mother: “It looked horrible there.”
My father: “Let her decorate the tree.”
My mother: “It’s my tree, too.”
My father: “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
My mother: “It was on the wrong branch, facing in the wrong direction. Next to a gingerbread house!”
My father would move it back. My mother would yell. My father would go outside to his tool shed. My mother would slam the bedroom door.
Finally, I could decorate the tree in peace and quiet.
My parents finally divorced in 1983. That same year, my mother married a man who got her two Christmas trees, which she decorated all by herself. The downstairs tree had a pink and red theme; the upstairs, white. Meanwhile, at my father’s house, my father threatened to ignite the tree as my three-year-old brother and I bickered over ornament and light placement.
Kidding. Kind of. Poor pops.
Anyway, I couldn’t help but think of all this Saturday night as I stood there with my ornaments. I thought about how Chuck and I might actually make it as a couple because he could give a shit about what branches I hang the ornaments on.
I thought about my brother Ted and how he called off his engagement today (I didn't even get a chance to find #22 on ebay). On the phone he asked me if I wanted any ornaments. His now former fiancee had brought a tree back to their apartment and its chances of being decorated were pretty slim.
I thought about the boxes of ornaments that sit in my father’s basement and if, because he doesn’t get a tree anymore, he thinks about someday giving them to me?
I thought about my mother’s two enormous trees and how she wants to give me all of her ornaments someday. All of them.
Then I thought about Chuck’s mom and how she loves fluffy, tacky ornaments and how she likes to give us ornaments every year—sometimes stockingfuls at a time.
It hit me: Someday I’m going to be smushed in an avalanche of fucking ornaments. Choked by Santa hair. Hobbled by sleighs. Hiney-poked by this bad boy:
The question is, will Chuck still be there to save me?