This year, I decided to start my own tradition. For the first time ever, I bought my own Christmas tree, and decided to recreate some of that childhood magic. To be honest, though, I really had no idea how complicated decorating a tree could be.
Growing up, my mom would string up the colorful lights and glittering garland while my sisters and I would place our ornaments in our designated spots. When we were finished, we would all stand together as one of us (we rotated turns each year) placed the handmade angel on the top of the tree. As a kid, I loved sitting in the living room when it was dark, just watching the tree sparkle. It's the kind of spectacular moment of pure warmth you can only feel around this time of year.
After I went away to college, my mom did away with the live tree (too messy), the colored lights (too tacky), and the metallic garland (ugh!). Now, the artificial tree comes pre-lit with white lights, and my mom puts on this velvety ribbon (classy!). My sisters have their own trees in their homes now, so I don't have to fight for prime real estate for my ornaments. The tree is pretty, but it's a little, well, grown up for my taste.
So I set out to get my own tree -- a small one, not like the 7-footer in my mom's house. Little did I know: This wasn't a quick project that I could do in an hour. I bought a red and green stand, a string of 100 lights, about 20 ornaments and a tree skirt (a purchase I am so happy I made -- more on that later). I made my own colorful garland out of some ribbons I had, figuring it would give my tree a kitchy vibe and save the environment.
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I probably should have bought all that stuff after I got the tree, just to measure it all out properly. Or, I should have bought a bigger tree than I did. But when I laid eyes on the sad little sapling on the curb, basically a scrap bundled in with some others, I knew I had to buy it. So what if it wasn't the full Douglas fir I had imagined? Who cared that it had barely any stump? Like Charlie Brown's tree, it just needed a little love. And that's what Christmas is all about, right?
Unfortunately, my life isn't a cartoon, and it took a lot more than love to decorate the little guy. Stringing up lights is harder than I thought, and my ornaments were a little to heavy for the tree. At one point the tree fell over spilling water all over the tree skirt (luckily it's absorbant!). And of course, I had forgotten to buy a tree topper, so I improvised by folding up the cupcake bra from my Katy Perry Halloween costume, which easily slid on top as the perfect finishing touch (my mother, as I suspected, was horrified by this).
When the tree was completely decorated I did what I always do. I turned down the lights, and just stared. Sure, I know it's not the prettiest tree in the world. But it's mine. And it's magical.