The seasonal scolds are out in full force, so no matter what you are doing or are not doing this holiday season, you are surely doing it in a regrettable fashion and you should be ashamed of yourself. This, however, is not going to be a blog post about what you should or should not be doing, or how you should be doing it with the right amount of gratitude no matter what kind of crap this year has flung at you, or anything of the sort; carping as a social activity is something I reserve for friends. You’re welcome.
I like Christmas, and celebrate it despite being, shall we say, an unbeliever. I figure any occasion I can eat cookies and give presents is a good one. Besides, our current Christmas is just the most recent version of a celebration that goes back millennia and which has always served basically as a way to take people’s minds off how cold they are.
We have almost always put up an artificial tree, and this year the tree is pink. I spotted it at our local Borders last year after the holidays but before Borders fell entirely to pieces.
“Oh my god, I have to get this tree,” I said the moment I saw it.
Jessica was a little doubtful about the whole endeavor. “It is not green,” she said.
“It’s pink! I love this tree. I have got to have this tree. In fact, I have just enough Borders gifts cards to buy this tree.”
“But it is not green.”
“Try to be flexible, darlin’,” I said and handed over the gift cards to the kid behind the counter.
Jessica sighed. “I will try. But it is hard.”
This year when we unfold the tree, I say ecstatically, “I still love this tree!”
“It is a pink tree,” says Jessica. “And the tree skirt is blue velvet with sequins all over it. We used to have a reindeer tree skirt. And a green tree.”
“But we needed a new tree anyway. The old one was falling to pieces. And so was the tree skirt. I’d had them both for fifteen years. That’s a long time for an artificial tree.”
“But we could have gotten a green tree.”
“Green is so pedestrian! So predictable! I love this tree.”
“It is a very nice tree,” she says. “For a pink tree.”
“You remember how you made me buy that purple spider with sparkles for Halloween, even though I said ‘whoever heard of a purple spider with sparkles for Halloween?’”
“This is my purple spider.”
She considers this for a while. “That is a metaphor. It is not a simile, or you would have used ‘like’ or ‘as’.”
“It is a metaphor because this is not a purple spider. It is a Christmas tree.”
“And you will put presents under it.”
“Then it is fine.”
I kiss the top of her head. “Thank you.”
“And now you have to put the lights on the tree.”
“I will go into my bedroom until you are done.”
I do not swear as much as she thinks I do, except when I am putting lights on the tree. “Good idea,” I say.
Later, when I am done, she and I take turns picking ornaments to hang on the tree and then we hang stockings on the mantel.
“Do you think Santa will get me the present I want?”
I have tried to explain to her that Santa is not real, but she does not believe me. She treats it like religious faith, a choice a person can make. (“You do not have to believe in Santa,” she said. “Although that may be why he never leaves you anything.”) Once, when I tried to explain that I am Santa, she suggested that perhaps I was just trying to steal Santa’s thunder. At this point, I am pretty sure she has won the battle and I’m half-convinced that if I didn’t play Santa, there would still be presents from Santa under the tree.
“I am sure he will do his best,” I say.
“Because I really want that Santa Paws dog. It would be wonderful.”
“Well,” I say, “I bet he’ll do all he can to find one for you.” Which I know he will.
“Santa is very good to children.” It is the only time of the year that she will admit she is a child. The rest of the time she is not a child, she is a teenager and very nearly grown up.
“He loves Christmas and wants all the children to have something to play with.”
“I would guess so.”
“And at the North Pole he and his employees work very hard. I do not believe in elves, but I think he has employees. Like Dad.”
“You’re probably right.”
“And do you think he plays Christmas music while he works?”
“But I bet he does not have a pink tree.”