I frigging love Christmas. So does my whole family. Growing up, the season was filled with wonder, for reals, thanks to my mother’s amazing creativity, my father’s endless enthusiasm, and my (and my sisters’) borderline psychotic desire to BELIEVE. In fact, I probably believed in Santa until I was 15. I simply refused to give him up because that would mean less holiday magic, my drug of choice. (Wine is now a close second.)
To this day, come December, every nook and cranny of my parents’ house is adorned with enchanting and festive touches. Garland atop every piece of furniture. Lights on banisters, mantles and Christmas trees. (Yep, you’d best believe they have multiple trees.) The dishes, bowls and, well everything, magically become a holiday-themed version of themselves. Goodbye, bland everyday pottery. Hello, charming snowflake mugs–I’ve missed you! Oh, is that an adorable family of holiday elves on the toilet? Why yes, yes it is. The magic even follows you into the bathroom, friends. If they could fit a small fir tree and holiday choir in there, they would. Outside, there are white lights on every edge of the house and all the trees within a half mile, except for one small concession. A small bush of colorful lights. That’s where my mother allows my dad to win one skirmish in their epic holiday battle of the sexes. White lights versus multi-colored lights. My mom’s Martha- and Jesus-like class and purity (all that is good and light) versus my dad’s gregarious, well-meaning but over-the-top garishness (probably representative of the crass commercial side of the season, and evil). Why, just this weekend at Target, I overheard a woman telling her husband, in one sentence with a dead serious tone and without breathing, to put down the colored lights we are doing all white lights. Clearly, too many colored lights will ruin Christmas. Thankfully, stylish, organized and unwavering women prevent that from happening.
So, obviously, I haven’t yet collected enough decorations to fill our home to the brim but it’s my goal, damn it, and every year I inch closer. There’s currently a full set-up of Christmas regalia on the mantle entailing faux-mercury birds, a small tree comprised of fake red berries, very large ornamanets, a handmade “PEACE” banner (warped by glue and exuberance) complete with glitter and monkeys wearing Santa hats, plus pine cones, the standard glittery Eiffel Tower, etc. etc. A wreath will be strung up over the existing mantle display as soon as I can get my hands on a sturdy wire ring, as I’m using the extra bows cut from the bottom of the tree to make a simple, fresh wreath with a silver bow. Atop the bookshelf, you’ll find the nutcracker versions of Santa, skiing with goggles, and Mrs. Claus, with wire-frame glasses and a tray of cookies for Santa, because getting them at every house in the world just isn’t enough for that tubby saint. If Stella and I can assemble and decorate a gingerbread house without eating it into non-existence, it will join those two up there.
There’s a charming German Advent calendar hanging over Stella’s mini red piano, homemade paper ornaments strung from the chandelier, and a garland with lights on the conveniently red hutch. In Stella’s room, we’ve got a tiny, sparkly pink and white bottle brush tree on her bookcase, one of those small fake trees in the classic burlap sack (needs decorating) on the little white table by her windown, and white and red star lights from Ikea swooping down over her curtains. Outside there’s the typical wreath (may add star lights to this–TBD) plus giant sparkly snowflakes and over-sized ornaments hanging from silver ribbon on the front porch. Lights will be added this week and it’s killing me that they’re not up yet. There are some holiday bowls in the kitchen, white with red snowflakes, but that’s it for that space. Sad, I know. But it gets worse, as there’s no holiday presence in our room or the office–unless you count my holiday spirit when I’m in those rooms. I’ll rig something up, though. I’ll make wonder out of nothing. Because, you know, as proud as I am of the Christmas decorating I’ve done, I’ve got a long way to go before I reach my family’s exacting standards for holiday magic. “You call this a tree? It’s only got 300 ornaments! None of them vintage! Chump!”
Now, depending on your holiday orientation, you may see all of this as paltry and pathetic, acceptable, or outrageously insane. To the latter, yes, it might seem a bit much. On paper! But in person, it just works. Besides, holiday magic isn’t something that can be worked out on paper. If only you believed, you’d understand. Only jerks don’t BELIEVE.
I’m overjoyed to report that, unlike all the non-believing Grinches out there, Stella has inherited the happy holiday gene. This past weekend, I hastily arranged just a few decorations to get us started–the Santa nutcracker and the mantle adornments. She breathlessly reviewed each item several times, saying things like, “Look at my Santa! He’s wearing goggles! Daddy wears goggles, too!” Yes he does Stella, at the swimming pool. But she and I digress. That night, after we put her in her crib, we could hear her sobbing and screaming, “I WANT MY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS! I WANT MY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!” Indoctrination complete, I thought. I gave her a big squeeze and told her about all the decorations to come the next day. Worked like a charm.
We put up the Christmas tree last night, though it’s still naked because, sadly, all our strings of lights died of unknown causes at some point within the eleven months that passed since they last lit up our lives. Our pricey Nordman fir (they’re huge in Europe) is supposed to shed less. Yet, naturally, needles covered every visible surface of our home by the time the tree took its place of honor in the corner by the large front window. Stella immediately referred to the needles as “Christmas.” She said, “Here mommy, hold the Christmas,” as she passed me two bright green needles, treating them like magic holiday fairy dust. Then Cody got on his belly to fill the tree stand with water. Which is when Stella pointed at his needle-strewn butt and exclaimed, “He has Christmas on his booty!”
Whenever I ask Stella what she wants for Christmas, Stella says, without hesitation, “Ornaments!” Me too, Stella. Me too. Our toilet isn’t going to decorate itself.
*Disclaimer: I use both white and multi-colored lights. Mostly white, though.