We put up our tree tomorrow. I hasten to reassure that this disgusts me. If I thought harder, I’d tie this in to the rather narrow-viewed thing floating around Facebook now exhorting people to drop “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas,” Christmas being of course the only holiday of the season. I think the common link is the general societal unease about The Birthday and how it turns winter into a melange of hope, dissatisfaction, and the words you say when you’re trying to get that sliver of broken glass ornament out of your foot.
As faithful readers know, I had one of those childhoods, and thus my holiday memories are fuzzed with things like my Dad’s drunken statement that “Christmas was just another day in the year.” This was at Thanksgiving dinner when I was 11. Put a damper, let me tell you. Not a lot of reindeer on our roof, either. So after a deliberate intention as an adult to NEVER have that happen again, I married into a family where the red-veined screaming needed no alcohol whatsoever. Trips to my in-laws were a mixed bag of anticipating my wonderful mother-in-law’s godlike corn pudding, and anticipating the time when I got fed up and became the only member of the family to scream BACK at my father-in-law. Fun times! However, seeing as he was a lawyer, it did serve to promote my talent for on-the-spot argumentation and strengthened the lower part of my mezzo range.
Nowadays, I’m just after peace and warm happy fuzzy stuff like carrying a Louisville Slugger to keep people from sheeping up my Christmas. And this understandable goal is forwarded by the Thanksgiving Tree.
For a couple of reasons, we have a fake tree. One, if you can afford one without serving the smallfry coal porridge for two weeks, good on you. But you don’t live in my house. Two, we don’t have the vehicle or the moxie to haul the damn thing home from the tree place and up the stairs to our palatial abode. Three, between making sure your tree fits your tree stand, having to water it, and needing to bring it back because it died the same week-before-Christmas day that your cat curled up and died underneath, it’s just not worth the energy. (OK, maybe that last isn’t a common experience for the rest of you. But still.)
As I write this, our tree is in the pet room (meaning the tiny storage room where we also store the ferrets and the cat accoutrements) in several red’n’green plastic bins. (The trunk sort of surfs around loose, just to further the joy of early-morning navigation already punctuated by kitty kibble under bare feet.) The branches are of course color coded by shades that are as close to each other as mechanically possible, and because they are all scrunched in there, are now far more like green wiry hairballs than something pretending to be tree-like.
My daughter owns the tree-construction process. She hates it, but will not give it up. The branches scratch, the color codes confuse, the lights get tangled. And she radiates such (understandable) rage and loathing that it makes me cry. (I’m a cream puff about the crying thing, but it is a crying occasion if you have any misconceptions about the family closeness Hallmark tree-trimming thing.) If I offer to help, she sees this as a criticism and stomps off to her room. And a Merry Christmas to you too, sir!
Needless to say, this unpleasant task gets put off until it can’t be put off any longer, and the closer to Christmas it gets, the more of a holiday-killing bummer it is. Days aren’t merry and bright when loving mom and devoted daughter hate each other over the seasonal symbol of joy. (And of course we have to have it. It’s a Christmas tree. I’ve had tree-less Christmases. Please. Moving on.)
So instead we have a Thanksgiving tree, so the passionate spasm for hatred gets dissipated on her bus-ride back to school. Sure, it makes it feel like the holiday marketeers have taken over my living room, but when it comes down to it, a little peace at Christmas itself is something to be thankful for.
Just stop me from getting all Martha Stewart with the gold leaf and the turkey bones.