Ya’ll, I am all for comingling holiday traditions. I eat latkes; my husband dyes Easter eggs. We make our mostly-secular thing work through mutual respect, open-mindedness, and a well oiled division of labor.
But all that blew just about to hell Saturday night when I arrived home for a little holiday gathering that I had organized. We were going to decorate the Christmas tree, a nod to the tradition I grew up with.
I’d gotten stuck in traffic– the snow, the holiday shoppers, the fucking moron tourists on Michigan Avenue. But my spirit was untarnished because inside my cozy little home was a naked Christmas tree waiting for my expert direction to transform it into a holiday masterpiece. I’d picked out that Douglas fir because it looked like a real memory-maker when we spotted it bound up in blue netting in a Home Depot bin.
My Christmas music mix was ready to go– a perfect blend of old school (Whitney Houston’s Do You Hear What I Hear?) and new school (Justin Bieber and Ludacris’ iconic Drummer Boy). I was humming Greensleeves as I pulled into the garage.
“Mommy, come look what we did!” Sadie commanded as I took off my shoes and fluffed my hair.
I followed her up the stairs thinking she’d probably put make-up on all her dolls or stolen all my credit cards to make a sculpture again.
What I didn’t expect to see was my perfect, memory- worthy tree already trimmed. Lights. Garland. Ornaments. Every decoration save the stupid red and golden balls that no one likes were hanging off branches.
I’ve felt superfluous before. Like when my kids call our nanny “Mama,” or when I leave town for a week and they are too busy to take a single call from me. But it was a particularly deft blow to learn that I wasn’t needed for Christmas decorating, even though I’m the only member of the household with any Christmas experience.
I cried. Then, I cried some more. And while I sometimes cry for effect, these tears were bona fide signals that my heart was shattered into a million pieces. Kind of like that glass ornament that Simon hung on the edge of a branch (which probably wouldn’t have happened had I been involved in the decorating).
It’s not the end of the world, or even the holiday. I know that. Horrified at learning that decorating the tree is a “big event” that was “important” to me, my poor husband explained that the whole thing ”just sort of happened” as the kids found the ornament box and started making Christmas magic. He’s offered to un-decorate it so I can have my moment in the director’s chair.
“Don’t be silly,” I said. I know that no one knew what it meant to me– to bring to my family all the bonding and torture that is untangling lights and fighting over who gets to hang the special pickle and doughnut ornaments.
It would be ridiculous to redecorate the tree. Right? I mean, that’s absurd. We should leave it as is, and I should appreciate that I got exactly what I wanted: a memorable Christmas experience.