They Accidentally Decorated The Tree Without Me

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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.


54 thoughts on “They Accidentally Decorated The Tree Without Me

  1. I would feel exactly as you do. I would contemplate redecorating it but then maybe actually go out and buy a second three for the foyer or something. In our house, the kids rotate who gets to put the star on the tree (and it has to go on last). It’s sacred. If my husband puts it on, I take it off.
    Hey, is that a donut on your tree??

  2. Wow!!!! Thank you for this post….for years I have been suffering with PTMSD (post traumatic memory stress disorder)…. Now what I am about so say should in no way influence your decision but… See I was trying to make amends with my ex… Ya know give it one more good try, so I opened my happy little post divorce home to him (just for the child’s sake)….it was Easter and we decided to get her the inevitable FIRST BIKE…. I was teaching, (you know earning the money….something he does not do) and on my way home thinking of all the memories we were going to make…. The look in her eyes at the decked out Barbie bike with tinsel hanging from the handlebars….the matching safety gear (which as a child of the 80s I don’t get)…. The awesome thrill of teaching her to peddle and brake…and maybe just maybe that would mend our broken marriage….hmmmph I drive up and what do I see….HE is teaching her to ride and I am in the way!!!! WTH! He robbed me! Now the mom in me is crushed, I will never have that memory…. The ex wife in me is furious as I contemplate ACCIDENTALY (on purpose) running over him with my car….but the woman in me sat there and cried as I watched my baby girl happier than I have ever seen her, with the pride of accomplishment…. MORAL: He is still living…She can ride a bike and I can share this with you without a cell mate…. Today we make more memories…. That one my friend is bittersweet but alas, sweet nonetheless …..xoxo

  3. That’s an Advent foul for sure & calls for a slathering of Catholic guilt–the special holiday variety. At least your kids didn’t have the chance to call you “Ms. Picky Particular” as you micro managed the tree trimming (and the cookie decorating…and…. (True. Story.)
    I only had one helper this year and it was mostly nice. Hubs swoops in at the end to place the star because the rest of us are too short even on the ladder.

  4. Oh no! Hopefully you get logs of extra hugs and kisses for that. I wish it were more of a family thing at my house but we have more of a division of labor. Rich does the outside, I do the inside. Shane is the only one who likes helping with the tree.

  5. I can see how this would happen: the kids, caught up in the excitement, your husband, not wanting to squash their enthusiasm. It’s great that they had fun, but I’m sad that you missed out.
    Of course, I HATE decorating a tree and would have been doing a happy dance if I had “missed” out. That doesn’t mean you have to feel the same. 😦

  6. Aww! I would cry too. Decorating the tree is a tradition I cherish, inspired by years of tree decorating with my mom and brother when I was a kid. It was so cool this year when Cassidy was old enough to help (a little, anyway). At least now they know, and Jeff won’t let it happen again next year.

  7. I am so sorry!! I totally feel you on this. Then again, my family KNOWS better. I am the supreme ruler and master of the Christmas tree. And while that sounds very illustrious, it unfortunately also means that I am the one who has to wrestle with the lights every time they go out and I need to yank out the dead ones and put a new one in (four times SO FAR this year, yeah). But, the tree is lit . . . again, and the ornaments sit waiting for my return tonight and our decorating will begin in earnest! You see, because they know better! (They better).

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  9. Wow, that’s a biggie. But your kids and Jeff will have a special memory of their own to treasure. You’re already the star in so many of their memories. Not that any of that makes you feel any better right now.

    For the last few years, I’ve been so overwhelmed by Christmas prep that my kids come over on Christmas Eve and put up the tree because I haven’t had a chance/found the energy yet, and because I am usually doing last-minute (A.K.A. all of my) wrapping. At least that way I don’t need to listen yet again to my 31-year-old rag on her 29-year-old sister about her trampling on the eldest’s Baby’s First Christmas ornaments, which happened when the second-born was either almost one or almost two, I can’t remember. But this year I have almost everything wrapped already, for the first time in recorded history, so maybe I’ll get the tree up yet.

  10. I know it hurts now, but there will come a day when you will be delighted to pass the torch — and the work — to younger generations. The only thing I haven’t been able to pass down (yet) is wrapping, but I’m working on it. My granddaughter likes wrapping (yay). Come to think of it, I used to like it too. I was younger. I have retained shopping. Finding great gifts is not something I want to pass to anyone. THAT’s mine forever 🙂

  11. I would have cried, too. Not so much because of the actual act of missing the decorating the tree, seeing as it’s not my favorite thing, but just because my family left me out of a holiday tradition! I am quite certain, though, that your husband will never make that mistake again 🙂

  12. I remember the first year I was at college and I came home one weekend to find that my parents and my brother had decorated the tree…without me. I instantly became a little child again. It was heartbreaking! My mom thought I was all grown up and didn’t even think to wait. I’m sorry you missed out on that special time this year. Cherish all the rest of the Christmas memories! And I agree with Kianwi…they won’t skip you next year for sure 🙂

    • It certainly does tap into something deep within me that fears being expendable or fungible or flat out unnecessary. That’s not the case here, but my fears were stirred.

  13. Aww, I would have cried, too! (And possible thrown a full-blown hissy fit.)

    But you’re right: at least you have a very memorable Christmas moment, and a good story!

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  15. Christie, I can so identify with this as a parent — and as I child. I remember being terrified of swimming lessons. My eldest was petrified to ever leave the side and I kept paying each month at a large Atlanta swim club for him to get no where. Then at someone’s suggestion I tried private lessons from one of the “institutions” of Atlanta. Two lessons at her home and he was swimming (barely) but swimming. The rest of the summer we just staying in the water at the city pool and pretty soon he was keeping up with all the other kids. It will work out. And I don’t even like the idea of getting in the indoor pool in cold weather — though I know it’s heated.

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