Growing up, there was one Christmas I had a real Christmas tree in my bedroom. I can’t remember why. But, filed under “magical moments in my childhood,” there it shines. Still, today.
But was it a dream? It was so magical, like – did it even happen? I literally just texted my mom to confirm. It’s kind of like the magical wonderment of childhood – like Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Toothfairy… as little children, we see it, we digest it, the anticipation is energizing, and it’s the ingredients for sweet dreams. The details on where this tree came from, 35+ years later are nowhere to be found in my memory. But the “year of the tree in my room” never left me.
This year, Josh and I have a tree in our room.
And she’s giving a nod to all the nostalgic, whimsical, retro Christmas vibes this girl could ever dream up. We’ve been married for 23 years and only in recent years’ past, since moving to North Texas, did we ever have more than one tree. Space in NYC was sacred. Don’t worry: we bought the biggest, tallest trees our apartments could ever handle, draped everything in garland and hung stockings by our wood-burning-fireplace-chimney with care. But we only ever put up one Christmas tree.
I’ve dreamed of a white flocked one my whole adult life, but always opting for the classic real tree, absolutely buried underneath non-energy efficient, incandescent lights picked up through the years, from various LA and NYC drugstores. We can always tell which era we bought which lights, because our system was to store them in plastic bags to keep them from getting all tangled up. So we’d have the “Sav-On”, “Ralphs” or “Vons” bags from the Beverly Hills days. The “Citarella”, “Gristedes” or “D’Agostinos” bags from the Upper East Side chapter. Now, when a strand gives up the ghost and Josh has attempted to fix it for the last time, I find it difficult to toss the bag out with the dead lights.
As Christmases come and go, the way we decorate a tree can change, but the way we light them up changes the most. Our new flocked tree of course came with snow accumulation, but she also came prelit. The first official tree went up this Christmas and I haven’t even seen the hodgepodge scrapbook of decades of twinkling lights and their corresponding timeline marker plastic sack. I took this as a sign to embrace an even further bygone era and cover this tree in tinsel. It felt right to take it way back. Bypass my outdated, inefficient lights and their nostalgia to my own life, and sit calmly with a Christmas vibe I’ve only ever seen in old photos, or clips in old movies.
It’s pure magic. It’s fascinating and sparkly and calm and simple and elegant and peaceful. If the ceiling fan is on ever-so-slightly, the tinsel flutters – such insignificant movement but so impactful. If there’s a breeze outside and the trees blow, the filtered sunlight hits the tinsel and it’s suddenly Sparkle City. In so many ways, this has been the most relaxing Christmas kickoff I’ve ever experienced. It takes a lot of work to layer on thousands of Christmas lights the way I like to do, even if it is something I truly enjoy. The prelit nature of this tree gave me an opportunity to calmly and quietly focus on the simplicity of the tinsel.
And because I fell completely head-over-heels with this look, I put on the dress I wore to our vow renewal in 2019 in Playa Mujeres and continued to add more and more tinsel. I couldn’t waste this opportunity: Disney snow princess here I come!
I know Christmastime is breeding ground for upholding traditions. I love a good tradition, too. But part of me has always wrestled with holding on to the past versus breaking ground and exploring unchartered territory. It’s so hard to do both, but I’m really trying to do more and more of this as I get older. Thanksgiving is Josh’s Superbowl and living in NYC we always walked across the park and watched the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day parade a mile from our house – not everyone gets to do this and the experience was always so magical and exciting, I never wanted to miss a year, and it was never lost on me how lucky we were to do this. One year, we went to Jamaica instead. And it was the most memorable Thanksgiving we ever had.
We’ve always encouraged our boys not to be *too nostalgic… or *too wrapped up in tradition that they don’t take the leap to make new ones. It’s a familiar comfort, and there’s joy in lining up all the years sequentially cataloged on the mind’s bookshelf. But there’s also an old-school idea of “thinking outside the box” – trying something new, taking a different route, leaving the library and hitting the road to a new discovery that can lead the path to a new tradition. No tradition will last forever.
So while I’m not ready to let go of my aging incandescent Christmas lights in various stages of replaced bulbs and fixed fuses – still shining brightly even if on borrowed time – I am ready to bring in new traditions like tinsel, the occasional modern convenience like a pre-lit tree, maybe a Christmas in the Caribbean, like our awesome Jamaican Thanksgiving, and keep this season magical and precious.
And the plastic shopping bags… they continue to be a postcard to present Lindsay from an earlier version of myself, and yes – familiar comfort and joy. I should probably toss them. But for now, they’re stored sequentially cataloged on my mind’s bookshelf.