For most of us, the holidays are a time when we cling to traditions. We dust off cookie recipes passed down through generations. We pop in our favorite Christmas CDs (since we embarrassingly haven’t transferred the holiday playlist to the old iPod). We tune in to the tried and true TV classics from Rudolph and Frosty to “Home Alone” and “The Grinch.” And we pull out boxes of ornaments—each with its own story—and dig into decorating the tree.
I’m a huge fan of all these traditions. They don’t just help us mark the passing of time, but they warm our hearts with memories of growing up and great times spent with family and friends. Yet much as I love the purity of these pastimes, I have to admit…brace yourself because if you’re a traditionalist this is going to sound blasphemous…sometimes I just want to mix it up. Passing by gleaming store windows and paging through the sumptuous settings in Elle Décor, it’s hard not to be swept away by design inspiration.
So one day, as the season approached, I decided this would be the year we’d change things up.
“You want to do what?!” My husband was flabbergasted. “What about all the awesome ornaments we bought over the time we’ve been together? The hand-painted trout and birch canoe from Michigan. The driftwood Santa from Minnesota. The Winnie the Pooh and Piglet sitting on a chair sharing cookies (from the time when we were kitschy kids in love).”
He was pulling heartstrings like a puppeteer.
“I know, I totally love them all,” I said. “I just want a change.” Puppy dog eyes. “Everything is so mixy-matchy—this year I would just love to have a swanky tree. Matching ornaments, one ‘look.’ Trust me, you’ll love it.”
Shrug. “If it’ll make you happy, go ahead.”
Cha-ching. I felt like a teenager asking my dad for the car keys. License to drive…all the way to diva décor for the new tree!
Though he was skeptical, when I pulled out the sparkly booty of handblown glass, shiny silver and pearly white orbs, he was sold. (And if your mind was in the gutter just now, it may have also taken the other kind of booty as well to convince him!)
But little did I know, my “fancy tree” plans were about to be foiled.
The tree was up, the lights were on, the egg nog was poured, and the delicious scent of pine permeated the air. The family tree-decorating fun was about to commence. We pulled off the lids for the ornament boxes….and then all hell broke loose.
Little grubby hands, completely bypassing the silver and white sparkles, greedily grabbed at the intriguing collection of objects in the criss-cross grid of ornaments from years past.
“Awww, how cute! Look at this fish—it’s adorable!”
“Oh there’s a spotted cow with a Santa hat on. I love it!”
“Yes honey, they’re so cute. Mommy and Daddy got those when we were first dating. We love them, but we’re not using them yet.”
I strategically used the term “yet” in the hopes that we could fill up the tree with sparkly goodness first…and then conveniently run out of room for the riff raff. But for each bauble I put up, I’d find two crafty ornaments hung along the bottom half of the tree, as high as the kids arms could reach while standing on tip toes.
“Ok guys, here’s the deal,” I snapped. “We’re not doing these yet.” My inner Santa was quickly being usurped by my inner Scrooge.
I put a halt on my decorating agenda and quickly began removing the ornament invaders from the perimeter of the tree…only to find more sprouting up on the other side.
“Ummm Mommy, I don’t understand why you don’t want to put these pretty ones up.”
My inner monologue fired back. “Well let’s see…because red and blue and green and birch and wood and plastic don’t match silver and white. Because….”
As I rattled off the reasons why in my mind, I caught a reflection that caused me to reflect. The soft white tree lights shone on the shiny silver ornaments and giddy faces with Chicklet smiles were beaming as they happily placed the ornaments on the tree.
Was I really going to kill their xmas spirit by kicking the kitsch off the tree? On the other hand, wasn’t I entitled to a little sophistication for the holiday season?
In parenting, there’s often a tension, a push and pull between serving your interests and nurturing your kids’. Most of the time, you sacrifice for the greater good. You let go of your agenda and best laid plans. And other times, you find a way to work it out.
I turned to my kids. “You know what, you’re absolutely right. We can’t leave all these awesome ornaments off the tree. But they’re so cool they need their own special spot.” Their eyes twinkled with delight. In full transparency, the special spot was on the back side of the tree, but that was beside the point. It was a win-win.
And so it was born: our beloved bipolar xmas tree—like a mullet, styled in the front with a party in the back. Silver and pearly white peacefully coexisting with snowmen and swimming trout.
When we were finished, we turned off the lights and stepped back to admire our work. I was on a quest for the perfect tree…and I, or rather we, succeeded in making it so.