Deck the Halls

There is something magical about a Christmas tree. The way it smells; the twinkling lights; all of the ornaments, each holding its own memory of a particular time and place



There is something magical about a Christmas tree. The way it smells; the twinkling lights; all of the ornaments, each holding its own memory of a particular time and place. It’s nostalgia objectified, for an adult at least. For a little one like Coraline, it appears to be magical because, well, there’s a tree in the house!

The first tree Coraline’s dad and I had together was one he cut down from behind our house in Saugerties. It looked like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree and I hated it — though I hated the fact that I hated it more. It was a tradition he remembered so fondly from his childhood: heading out into the woods with his dad (who has since passed on) and brothers to find the ugliest tree they could; I figured I could live with it, at least every other year. Last year, he acquiesced (not many trees to cut down in the middle of Rhinebeck, anyway) and we bought a perfectly conical evergreen from Wonderland Florist instead.

This year, because of our lack of space and ever-nagging consciences, we decided to get a living (potted) tree and put it atop our dining room table. We figured it’d be safer for Coraline — or rather, safer for the fragile, heirloom ornaments — and we wouldn’t contribute to the seasonal deforestation that certainly didn’t help our planet any. That was the plan until I went to actually buy the tree: There I stood at Wonderland, staring at the picture-perfect full-size trees and then back at the sad, little Charlie Brown Christmas potted ones... and then back at the big trees, and then back to the small trees, ad nauseam. FInally, with a gust of impulsivity, I marched inside and bought one of the big trees, feeling a rush of untempered exhilaration. I called my partner on the way home and instructed him to meet me outside. “Why?” he asked, his confusion expected since, when I had left, it was to purchase a small, potted tree I easily could’ve gotten inside myself. I jumped out of my car almost comically shouting, “Tada!” He just shook his head and laughed. That night, I put on some Bing Crosby, busted out my modest box of ornaments and lights, and unabashedly got my Christmas spirit on.

It may not be my proudest green moment, but that silly evergreen and all the tchotchkes that adorn it is the reason for the season as far as I’m concerned. When I stand around my mom’s tree, pawing at the same ornaments I hung as a child, listening to my mom recount the stories of their origins — the ones from the neighbors who babysat my older brother; the one I made when I was 10; the ones made by a friend of my grandmother — it feels like not only the year but my whole life is coming full circle. You feel anchored to a time and place, to your people, to your past. And when you have a child, you realize that you’re tethering them to something, too. Something joyful, something that is pure love. And how many things can you say that about in this day and age?

Wishing you all a very joyful holiday! xo, Mama Greenest

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One mom's plan to raise a kid — without raising greenhouse gases

About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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