16 December 2010

Tinsel

My mother did Christmas right. The house was decorated just so, a garland at the door, swags over the fireplaces, the golden rope across a mirror. A little tree stood in the dining room window, the big tree, always a balsam fir, held court in the corner of the living room. Red votives marched along the mantle, red ribbons bedecked the chandelier. Tinsel wasn't allowed. Wrapping paper and ribbons had to be red, white, green, silver or gold. With a few exceptions, the only ornaments on the trees were antique glass balls.

Every year, I'd ask if I could decorate my room - "a little tree, just for me? a wreath?". No. Christmas stayed downstairs.

I bought a tinsel tree some years ago - I can't remember if it was before or after the child was born, or where we were living at the time. But, it was on sale dirt cheap at ABC Carpet (where nothing is ever less than expensive, much less $13 for a four foot high tree) and it had a certain kitschy charm. I carried it home on the train, shedding bits of gold tinsel with every jostle.

My husband hates it; its shedding puts it in the category of "fucking glitter". My mother hated it; it was far too déclassé. It makes me perversely happy, and my daughter loves it with the passion you'd expect of a seven year old girl.



Last year, we let her have it in her room. I gave her a shoebox of ornaments to call her own - ones she's made, some weird old plastic bells, a Mexican tin heart, the fabric angel her uncle gave her the year she was born, a ceramic chef - found an orphan string of lights, and let her go to town. It's her tree now.

Because some Christmas traditions are made to be broken.

21 comments:

slouchy said...

I love this. You are a fantastic mom.

de said...

Oh, absolutely!

My daughter would love that thing, too. But until she cleans her room so it's less of a fire hazard, I'm thinking NO.

We have some Puerto Rican neighbors who have a white tinsel tree in the front window and whenever we go by after dark, she sighs, "That's my favorite tree."

Harriet M. Welsch said...

This hit home for me. I wasn't forbidden from decorating my room. I really wanted my own tree, but I didn't have one. My grandmother gave me an old piece of tinsel and I'd string it through the shelf clips on my bookshelf and hang ornaments (that I made myself, often from old Christmas cards and detritus from Christmases past) from it. When I found a tiny tabletop tree for $5, I got one for his room. He loves colored lights, which Mr. Spy doesn't like on his tree, so we hung some on his bookshelf. He loves it.

FreshHell said...

Amen. I got a tiny real tree in my room the Xmas I was eight. I still have the picture of me standing next to it, grinning.

Dusty wants a tree in her room but she'd need a tiny fake one which I haven't gotten around to finding yet. Her room is so cluttered with stuff, I don't know where it would go. I usually let both girls decorate their rooms with something but we haven't gotten that far yet.

YourFireAnt said...

Was the tinsel plastic? My parents stopped getting it once they started making it out of plastic. Even us kids thought it was icky.

I like your little ABC tree.

T.

Janet said...

so lovely :-)

mayberry said...

It's perfect. My mother used to put up a fake tree for usin e playroom, and we could make it as beautiful/ugly as we liked. We loved it.

mayberry said...

Whoa. That should say "for us in the playroom."

alejna said...

I loved this, too. It's a wonderful new tradition you've made.

Rima said...

Love it. Truly.

Elissa said...

We try to make our own celebrations, but nothing quite replaces the memory of your mother's house. It certainly was the quintesential Christmas home.

Mental P Mama said...

That right there is what it's all about;) Kudos.

Marinka said...

Beautiful. And now I want one.

Anonymous said...

This is a holiday that's so steeped in tradition; it's easy to get caught up in it. Every year my mother made Christmas cut-outs and frosted and decorated them with colored sugar. The Santas were always red with a green sac, the Xmas trees always green, the angels always blue with yellow wings, the bells always blue. When my girls were old enough to help, they mixed up the colors and my first instinct was to correct them -- no, that's not how they're done. Like you, I realized it doesn't matter and it's more important that they helped to make the cookies -- that's what they'll remember. Funny. Our others did so many things right. And we're doing other things right.

MDTaz said...

Um, oops -- that was me (above). I hit publish before putting in my name. Anyway - merry christmas!

Kyla said...

Love it!

Vodka Mom said...

i love it.

flutter said...

YOU do Christmas right.

Maggie May said...

it is adorable! lucky girl:)

The Absence of Alternatives said...

My 8-yo boy would have loved to have a little tree that he could decorate himself with all the "rejected" ornaments.

painted maypole said...

it seems to me that YOU do Christmas right.