— December 21, 2019 —
o tree or not to tree? That’s the question you’re faced with when it’s 12 days before Christmas and you still haven’t taken your miniature Christmas tree out of storage or even committed to the idea of putting one up at all.
But on the 11th day before the holiday (Dec. 14), my Dear Wife (DW)—inspired by a random act of kindness from her uncle—channeled her inner B. Smith and made a Target run to buy a seven-foot evergreen along with a potpourri of shimmery ornaments and candy canes. That meant only one thing: we were definitely treeing this season.
Truth be told, I wasn’t feeling particularly festive. This last year of the 2010s has been filled with major transitions, from quitting a job and starting a new one, to helping get our Dear Daughter (DD) prepared for kindergarten to navigating the health insurance bureaucracy to re-establish DD’s autism therapy—after a three-month interruption. With a winter break from work on the horizon, I just wanted to sit down in solitude and not feel obligated to tackle, address, confront, negotiate, handle, correct, or coordinate One. More. Thing.
But my wife and I agreed it was important to boldly celebrate Christmas this year, to create memories of holiday traditions that would stay with DD since this would be the first Christmas, at the age of 5, she would likely remember in her childhood home. If we weren’t going to wrap the tree in the front yard with a merry display of holiday lights or outfit the gutters with an icicle light set, the least we could do was put up a tree—inside. After all, where would we put DD’s presents?
I woke up from a nap later that afternoon to find my wife buzzing about: she had fluffed and fanned out the branches of the artificial tree and placed it by the fireplace in the family room. As DD and I stood by eager to help, DW put on a soulful Christmas playlist she found on YouTube, the music pouring out from deejay-worthy speakers connected to her laptop.
We gathered around the kitchen table to unpack the ornaments, scores of bright gold and sparkly red globes stacked before us in a tall tub of clear plastic. We threaded a hook through each globe as the percussive horns and popping bass of James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” filled the air:
Santa Claus, go straight to the ghetto
Hitch up your reindeer, uh!
And go straight to the ghetto
Santa Claus, go straight to the ghetto
Fill every stocking you find
The kids are gonna love you so, uh!
DD was definitely loving this. Her seemingly uncontainable excitement reminded me of Agnes, the little girl from “Despicable Me,” who had a thing for fluffy toy unicorns.
Each time DD attached a hook to an ornament, she dashed over to the family room like a happy little elf to hang it on the branch of the tree, occasionally blurting out “Happy holidays!” as she rushed back to the kitchen to get her next globe or candy cane.
Back and forth it went for an hour and a half until the tree rivaled something you might see in a department store window. (My wife’s first job out of college as an art history major was at Marshall Field’s in Chicago, so she has a trick or two up her sleeve. The photos in this post were taken by DW and reflect her penchant for making things beautiful.)
I stood back and marveled at the results of DW’s vision and our collective handiwork, how we started with a bare, artificial evergreen and transformed it into a majestic, ribbon-laced beacon, how seeing my daughter’s pure joy of the experience beat back a case of the bah humbugs.
We didn’t have the accessories to light our creation that evening, but the ritual of trimming the tree had already lit the holiday spirit within me.
If you’re ever faced with the decision to tree or not to tree, no matter how late it may seem in the season, always choose to tree.