Christmas, hear me roar

I have a real "Hear me roar" feeling about Christmas trees. This feline response to them began many moons ago, when I was a singleton in The Big Apple. One December night, as I strutted home after a late evening out, high heels clap-clapping up Lexington Avenue, I was drawn into a well-lit bodega like a moth to a lamp. Out front was a small selection of Christmas trees, and, as I had my own place for the first time in New York, I had to buy one. A lovely man cocooned my chosen fir into its transient netting, sold me a cheap stand too and seemed convinced by my assertions that of course I could lug it all home. My skirt and tights and heels and new purchases were no match for my enthusiasm and will, and I think he got that.

Off I went, further north up Lex, dragging my tree behind me along the cold sidewalk. Up the flights to my fifth-floor walk-up. And then to the corner where my fir regained legs in the red and green metal stand. On went a few decorations, enough until I could buy some more. Perhaps never had a tree made me so happy before, and, perhaps, never since. In that moment, I knew I had made it. I was supporting myself in New York City, on an educator's salary and with a Christmas tree to boot. All by myself.

Each year since, I have eagerly awaited the turn of November into the year's final month. I'm usually one of the first, of folks I know, to buy and erect our annual tree. Every year I delight in turning the Christmas carols up loud, stringing the lights and going to town with my beloved collection of ornaments.

Tom is fairly meh about the whole tree thing but my -and the kids'- enthusiasm is unbridled. They pimp the tree out to the nines, loading each branch so full that none could ever make it through the season, much less a few days. After they've had their fun and are asleep, I cull and relocate, strengthen and secure. I can always blame changes on weak branches or the pets.

In recent years, I have taken to buying the tree on my own with the boys. Not because I don't love Tom's presence and help but because doing it alone or with the kids reminds me of that long-ago me in New York. That girl who could certainly buy, drag home and set up a tree all by herself. My first maiden voyage in Life as Mom was, interesting and in unplanned fashion, made while wearing a skirt, tights and flats. I'd been volunteering at school and on the way home thought, "Hey, you have just enough time, if all goes well, to get a tree and put it in the stand before heading back to get the boys. What a grand surprise that'd be."

And so I did.

One of my favorite images in all the year is that of trees strapped to car roofs driving toward their respective homes. It is so festive and warm, so jolly and lacking in cynicism. If snow is lightly falling and the car's driver is wearing a fuzzy woolen hat, all the better. Even though I never wear a fuzzy woolen hat and don't want to. It's just the visual of the package, you know?

Because I cannot safely get a tree off my car roof by myself, I acquiesce to shoving it in the trunk and through the console of the back seat. This is fun too and if the trunk is tied tight, there's no worry about losing the tree on the drive home. The boys and I did this yesterday, and although Ol wailed like a lunatic the whole way because we'd not bought the tree with a giant hole in the front, the fresh fir scent and the sheer festivity of the whole affair made my jovial buzz insuppressible.

The tree went up but then, tired, I decided to wait until today to start decorating. I got the lights on while the kids were at school, put on a few fragile ornaments and saved a bundle for the boys. One of Ol's friends came home with us. He's Jewish, had never decorated a tree and said in the sweetest voice, "It's my first time. How do I hang them?" We all demonstrated and he and Oliver went nuts on the branches at their height. It's like ornament vomit about three feet off the ground, but it's very dear, and I'll only cull and relocate a bit.