It’s a Christmas miracle that my husband and I never got divorced over decorating our tree.
Even though he’s never dared to say it, I know that he thinks I’m a Tree Nazi, which I don’t really mind…as long as I get to put my ornaments where I want them to go. Where they should go.
I’ll admit it, I have a touch of OCD: Obsessive Christmas (Tree) Disorder. I like my tree to look a certain way. Even as a kid, I had a vision. For example, I always hung these two little bears we had on adjacent branches because they were friends and had to be close to each other.
These days, in addition to my random Christmas-tree narratives, ornaments are staggered, not evenly aligned with each other. There aren’t too many balls in a row—or too many of the same colors grouped together. Ornament placement flows. If it doesn’t, you rearrange.
Rearranging someone else’s ornaments doesn’t go over well in a marriage, and I assumed it would go over even worse with a headstrong, enthusiastic almost-4-year-old. More to the point, I didn’t want to crush my son’s spirit—Christmas or otherwise—so I wanted to keep my crazy in check this year. Obviously I would never have scolded him for putting, say, two red balls together, but I was afraid that I might “revise” things after he went to bed.
I won’t lie: I’d been stressing out about this for a while, and when my son’s chubby little fingers reached for that first ornament—a breakable glass gingerbread man—I held my breath. I really didn’t want my carefully curated ornaments in pieces all over the floor.
But he picked it up carefully and was so proud as he hung it on the branch of his choosing.
I let out that breath. Maybe this was going to be OK.
And then he placed the next one in the perfect spot. The one after that? Well, it wasn’t where I would have put it, but he was beaming, and I was just so proud of his initiative and the care he was taking. Mom instinct had prevailed over tree insanity. Whew.
As I relaxed, I let him take the lead, and started looking for my favorite ornaments. You see, I have a tradition of buying a Christmas ornament wherever my husband and I go on vacation. In addition to the traditional-looking ornaments, my tree is filled with memories of fun and relaxation and good times, and whenever I look at it, it makes me smile.
When I finally found what I was looking for, I showed it to my son.
“Do you know what this is?” I asked him.
“It’s actually a trolley, and there’s a story behind it. They have these in San Francisco, and your dad and I got this on the first vacation we took together. This was our very first ornament.”
We put it on the tree, and he excitedly went back to the box. He picked up a mini Christmas tree ornament made of shells. “Does this one have a story?”
“Oh, this is another one of my favorites. We got it in a place called Nantucket. You were actually with us—but you were in my belly. I love this one because it was our first vacation with you, even if you weren’t really here yet.”
“How about this one? Does it have a story, too?”
And we went on this way for a while, talking about trips to Venice, Hawaii and Arizona with his dad, a wild time in Mexico with his godmother, the Hershey Chocolate Factory in Pennsylvania with his other honorary aunts on a girls’ weekend, our trip to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular when he was almost 2, and his “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament. He loved my stories, and I loved telling them as we cuddled together next to the Christmas tree.
I have to say, the tree looks pretty damn good this year. My kid has a knack for it. (I think we know who he takes after.) But our time decorating together and our little trip down memory lane? It’s made Christmas truly magical.