Around the office I’m known as something of a grinch. I’m normally a cheerful person who is fairly adept at accepting life as it comes (despite my preference for a detailed schedule of what to expect). But when it comes to certain festive events, my inner cynic comes out. I’ve been stuck in lunchtime traffic by one too many parades, and writing holiday stories months in advance can really throw off your inner calendar.
But I still respond with almost childlike joy to Christmas lights. I live near Mountain Brook, which fills the trees of its villages with lights beginning in November. I find the consumer-driven push to begin the gift-giving holidays early as exhausting as anyone else does, but I will never complain if Mountain Brook flips the switch a few days (or even weeks!) early. I often go out of my way to drive through the city at this time of year.
I considered skipping the Christmas tree ritual this year, leaving it to various neighborhoods and friends to bring that extra cheer into my life. I could save a few dollars by not buying a tree, and spend the time allotted to decorating on my book instead. I wouldn’t have to worry about sweeping away bits of Fraser fir for months afterward. Besides, space is at a premium in my 750-square-foot cottage. And how would I transport a tree in my sedan, anyway?
Tonight I stopped by the Howell Christmas Tree lot nearest my house, selected a larger tree than I intended and crossed my fingers as an employee loaded it into my trunk. “How far are you going?” he asked when it didn’t look like the tree would fit. I would have been willing to risk the half-mile drive with less-than-secure rigging, but with a little manipulation, he was successful.
My Christmas tree and its decor aren’t special, except in the way that all Christmas trees are special. As I pulled out ornament after ornament, I shared their history with my roommate. I’ve got a ceramic dove and a brass baby in a manger that date back to my first Christmas in 1981. A number of cross-stitched ornaments from the ’80s remind me of my Mimi. Penguins were surely a gift from my Aunt Laura, as were a number of other animal ornaments (I particularly like my elephant, giraffe, cow and fish, all of which were Aunt Laura gifts, if my memory serves me). I laughed when I pulled out the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, and my boyfriend said his mother the librarian would surely appreciate the University of Alabama’s Amelia Gorgas Library hanging in a prominent position.
I attempted to tie the eclectic mix together with crocheted snowflakes I purchased during college. But the truth is, it doesn’t much matter to me whether this tree meets anyone else’s definition of beautiful. Once the Christmas lights are up, I abandon all sense of grinch-dom. For the rest of this month, you’re likely to find me curled up at night and in the early mornings, staring with wonder at a squat, glowing little tree.
Today’s subject line comes from “O Christmas Tree.”