Every year, my friend posts a picture of her Christmas tree on Facebook.
It is always a gorgeous, “real” tree, probably 8 feet tall and full of pine needles that I swear I can smell through the picture. She has it decked out in fancy ornaments, maybe red and gold one year, blue and silver the next. Elegant ribbon is wrapped around it as tiny white lights sparkle from the inner boughs.
Every year, I look at that tree and resolve that next year, NEXT YEAR will be the year my tree will look like that.
For five years now, I have been promising myself that. It hasn’t happened.
See, I bought an artificial, pre-lit tree after my son was born. “Why do the work when the work is already done?” I thought.
While that’s great in theory, the pre-lit lights only lasted a year until some of the strands stopped working. I tried for a long time to figure out how to fix them and then decided to just rip the lights off the tree. Have you ever tried to take the lights off a pre-lit tree? It sucks. So I abandoned that after about an hour and decided that I would just put new strands of lights on the tree over the lights that don’t work.
So now, I have a tree that has a whole lot of little bulbs on it, but only about half of them light up. The dark ones sidle up to the shining ones as if to say, “Your holiday may be bright, but you know depression gets worse this time of year,” or something else that really bums me out.
The lights aren’t the worst of it, though.
I don’t have any pretty ornaments, like the glass ones that reflect all the lights or the fancy icicle-looking ones that would surely fall and stab one of my children in the eye.
No, we don’t have those ornaments. Instead, we have the handmade ones that date back to the 1980s when my husband and I were nothing more than kids with a bottle of glue and some popsicle sticks. Those creations are now crusty and falling apart, but we don’t have it in our hearts to trash them.
We also, of course, have the ornaments our children have made, which are basically unrecognizable clumps of craft-time gone wrong. They involve a lot of pipe cleaners, jingle bells and glitter.
Like, so much glitter.
We do have several cute ornaments we get every year from my mother-in-law, which have the date and our names on fun holiday-themed creatures, like little mice popping their heads out of stockings. But those are always covered by the cheap garbage ornaments I bought at Target years and years ago, before kids, when I was like, “Oooooh, let’s have a funky tree.” That’s how we ended up with flamboyant, neon pink, blue and green stars, light bulbs and bows.
As if the insane hodgepodge of décor is not enough, there is zero rhyme or reason to their placement. The 5-year-old places the big shiny ones on the highest branches he can reach instead of the inside branches where they belong. The toddler gets obsessed with just one spot and places 15 ornaments all right there. It doesn’t really matter, though, because we have to move all the decorations so they are at least 3 feet off the ground because otherwise either the dog or the baby will pull them off.
The last piece is the angel that rests atop our tree. You’d think this would be a beautiful touch, but it’s actually terrifying. She looks like she crawled out of a dumpster, spotted our home and thought, “They look like they’d enjoy a good haunting.” She is the creepiest, most judgmental tree-topper in existence. And she is top-heavy, so we have to violently shove her onto the branches, a sight that is certainly not very Christmas-y. Then she just snarls at us all season long from her perch as if to say, “What the $#@* am I sitting on?”
Honestly though, I kind of love our ugly tree. It is covered with memories that we get to rehash every year while we decorate. The 5-year-old is even starting to remember Christmases past, finding one of his craft bomb ornaments and cheering, “I made this at Santa’s workshop!” And I’m like, “Great, sweetie. Can you tell Mommy what the hell that is?”
Our tree is reflective of where we are in our lives. It’s messy, it doesn’t always make sense, and I’m certain that even the angels are shaking their heads at us. I don’t think I would have it any other way.