Deck the Halls

I wanted to buy a Christmas tree today. It was a department store tree, the already decorated variety. This silvery-white fir was adorned with matching bulbs and snowflakes, and it boasted a sparkling flake at the top. I thought about how much I would be willing to pay for such a tree, this quintessential symbol of the holiday season. Five hundred bucks? Seven hundred dollars? One thousand? 

I fantasized about buying it, placing it (oh so gently) in the back of my SUV, and displaying it in my living room. I thought about not even removing the teeny, tiny barcode tags from all of the lovely ornaments. They didn’t bother me, and I didn’t want to do any extra work. It was perfect just the way it was, aside from the fact that it wasn’t for sale. And, buying a ready-to-go, completely decorated tree would be a seasonal scam, a complete Christmas con. People are expected to trim their own trees.

Tree decorating is not fun for me. Each year my husband brings the boxes of ornaments and other holiday décor from the attic and places them in our living room. I stare at them for a bit and then go fix a cup of cocoa. I return to the room and open a couple of boxes, look at a few ornaments, and then watch a holiday film on Netflix. I clean the house, grade papers, and take a nap. I do anything I can think of to avoid decorating our tree.

Eventually, my husband becomes frustrated with me procrastinating the decorating, and he starts placing the ornaments on branches. I watch from the sofa and tell him which ones are out of place; he moves them, and we have our first fight of the holiday season. 
Just to be clear: I am not a scrooge. I love all things Christmas: music, parties, baked goods, and decorations. I prefer other people’s decorations, though, because mine always look ridiculous. Always.

Take last year for example. I was almost excited that we were going to try using garland for a change. I thought it might give our tree that tied- together look that it had been missing for nearly twelve years. We draped it loosely, and then we tried it a bit tighter. I sank back on the couch, disheartened and defeated once again. Our living room looked like a hostage situation. Our tree wasn’t trimmed; it was bound and gagged. 

Somehow we got past that moment, just like we do every year. I like to think that something magical happens, but it may be that my incredibly patient husband works tirelessly with the lights and garland until it looks more like a Christmas tree and less like a crime scene.

Something was a bit different last year. Once our tree was finished, I began to admire its imperfections. I noticed its bent and broken branches, its disproportionate shape, and its burnt out light bulbs. This time I noticed with a less critical eye. This tree was so much like a human: imperfect by nature and judged by its beauty (or lack of).

This year I am vowing to get past my decorating woes and fears of having an imperfect tree. My tree will not be perfect, and I’m going embrace its defects. I also plan to take inventory of my life as I take out my ornaments.

A lot can change in a short time, and our situations are rarely the same from one Christmas to the next. We welcome new babies, say goodbye to loved ones, and occasionally, part ways with friends. This year’s tree will be a symbol of triumph. We made it through another year together, as a family. We made it through the arguments, tears, sleepless nights, and celebrations. 

We are here. We have the privilege of experiencing another holiday season together. What a great reason to deck the halls.

Melissa Face lives in Prince George with her husband and two children. She is an English Instructor at the Appomattox Regional Governor's School in Petersburg, VA, and she writes creative nonfiction when she is not grading student work.

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