Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grown-Up Christmas ...

This season, for whatever reason, I've been thinking about my colored tree.

The tree in my living room is lit with white lights, incandescent little twinkle lights that cast that warm, happy glow, not those hideous LED numbers that make everything look like science fiction.

The tree in my dining room is lit with white lights and "globe" lights that glow almost gold.

But when I moved into my first apartment, my parents gave me the tree that had been in the basement of my childhood home, not the funky aluminum tree on which we hung the blue glass balls (wow, that was shiny) but the fake-ity fake tree that we festooned with gold garland and colored lights and plaster ornaments my brothers had painted when they were wee.

I made a giant silver star for the top of it, an excellent use of cardboard and tin foil. I bought some new ornaments to make the tree my own. And I was happy.

Growing up, I used to put a string of colored lights around the inside casing of my bedroom windows. My bedroom windows faced the next house on our tidy block of bungalow homes. I'm sure the neighbors didn't care, but the lights were never for them. They were for me. I loved falling asleep to the glow from those lights, the blue and the yellow and the green and the red, all of which seemed to add up to pink at night.

These days, the fake-ity fake tree from my apartment gets set up in the corner of my dining room, with a "grown up" color scheme of a sort of sage-y/spearminty-y green and copper and off-white.

And the living room tree looks rather traditional with its "cranberry" garlands, and silver and acrylic ornaments.

But this year, I wanted my colored tree.

My box of colored lights and funky ornaments and gold garland has sat, patiently, on a shelf in the basement for years, waiting for me to want to use it again.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money to indulge my whim. So I'd looked at trees but hadn't bought.

Until yesterday. I walked into a store with the intention of buying two things, written down, on my list, but made a detour to the Christmas trees. And there I saw a sea of orange signs. Clearance, baby. Fifty percent off. Because who doesn't have a tree already, when Christmas is one week away?

I didn't need the tree to be pre-lit. I had colored lights at home. (I hoped they'd still work.) So I needed just a plain tree, smallish in scale. And there he was, just waiting, on sale for $24.99.

I picked up the right box for the stacks on the floor and headed back to the front of the store. My little cart would no longer do.

Later, at home, I set about assembling him, which mostly amounted to bending down the branches and fluffing everything into shape. I wanted the tree in the TV room so I could enjoy it while watching Christmas movies, but that room doesn't have any floor space to spare, so ... I set it up on my treadmill.

Yes, nothing says, "I've given up all illusions of exercising between now and Christmas" like setting up a tree on your treadmill.

I did, however, put on a peppy Christmas CD and bopped and fluffed until the tree took on a respectable shape and then I headed downstairs to get the box.

All the strands of lights still worked (hooray!) and I wrapped them in and about the branches and when I reached the end of the final strand, I stood back and clapped a happy little clap and then reached for the garland.

I draped it on the tree the way I remember garland as a kid, swagged. John Cougar Mellencamp (that's what his name was when the CD I was listening to was released) sang "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in a very country-music way and I started unwrapping ornaments.

I had fewer than I remembered, but then thought I must have given the plaster ones back to my mom. But this tree is less about the ornaments than it is about the lights. So I hung what ornaments I had.

I took the ornament box and the box from the tree downstairs. I straightened up the kitchen. I wanted things in their place. And I poured a glass of orange juice because I felt like something was coming on, and I turned off the lamp in the TV room and sat on the couch to enjoy the glow of my nostalgic tree.

And it didn't feel the same.

I sat there with my disappointment. It was still a cute tree, I thought, it just didn't take me to where I wanted to go. Was it the faded quality of the lights, I wondered? Was it the lack of ornaments? Was it the shape?

No, it was none of those things.

I decided that I've simply grown up.

It had to happen sometime, right?

So the feeling isn't the same, but The Snowman is very fond of sitting in Angelo's comfy chair and gazing at the garland and lights.

And next year, I'll find a new theme for it. One for who I am now, not who I was then.


Blogger Tom Erdman said...

You aren't alone. I don't think it's about the tree. I think it's about having lost the innocence of youth, about having some answers and knowing you don't have others. I like the idea of the treadmill as part of the Christmas message. It kind of wraps it all up for you, doesn't it?

3:00 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yep, Tom, I think you're on to something there, the lost innocence of youth.

It's kind of how certain foods that you remember don't taste the same when you have them years later.

Change. Sigh.

The poetic part of my tree being on the treadmill, though, is that the treadmill is necessarily still. I've been very mindful of not stressing about Christmas this year. I haven't been entirely successful, but I've been less stressed than in years past.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Your tree is very pretty. Myself, I have always had colourful trees, even if they are artificial now as opposed to the real ones from my childhood. And I always have colourful lights on the house. I think it is more where I live than anything else. In border states and the South, we like our Christmases to be gaudy! :-)

10:00 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Your comment made me laugh out loud, Terry!

10:10 PM  

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