My girls are draped over the back of our comfy chair, staring out the window at the lit-up Christmas tree inside our neighbour’s living room. I am standing back to admire our own tree, alone. “What do you think? Isn’t it pretty in it’s own way? I love the berries, don’t you?”
Without shifting their longing gaze, one of them replies, “It’s just a bunch of sticks, Mom.”
Stan comes quickly to my defense. “Do you know how much you’d pay for this at Bed, Bath and Beyond, kids? Big bucks… real big bucks.”
This piques their interest a little and Susanna turns around. “Really?” she asks.
“Absolutely,” my dear, faithful husband replies.
Belén remains unmoved. “It’s dead,” she says. “Isn’t that the whole point of a Christmas tree–that it’s alive and green?”
The branches aren’t dead–dormant would be a better descriptor–but they certainly aren’t green or flush with pine needles. Instead, our Christmas tree this year is a floor-to-ceiling bouquet of red willow branches, cut from a ditch outside of town. I grew up Christmas-tree hunting and want to carry on that tradition… only we’re adapting it a little. In a place where saplings and young spruce aren’t as easy to find (or legal to chop down), I figure red willow is the next best solution; artificial trees aren’t an option, and store-bought pines trucked in from farms seem a little too perfect. I’m used to “bush trees” with uneven branches–it’s the spaces between that make them beautiful–so a willow-tree is a logical leap.
It’s not the first time we’ve done this, but the girls are suddenly much more opinionated this year. Maybe because they’re older. Maybe because hundreds of years of tradition are hard to compete with. I get that. But I’m also not ready to give in. “This is an exercise in seeing something old in a new way,” I say. “Trust me.”
Stan, knowing their trust might need a little scaffolding, adds confidently, “Don’t kid yourself. Your mama knows what she’s doing!”
A few days earlier I’d collected a bowlful of mountain ash berries. My mom and Belén helped me string them…
It would be inspiring if I could end this little vignette with some resolution. Like, my children came around and now embrace our unique tree and the entire concept of change. The are eternally committed to flexibility and adaptation. In reality, Susanna is convinced we’re the laughing stock of the town and Belén is already looking forward to next Christmas (I promised we could alternate years between willow and evergreen.) Despite Stan’s loyal support and encouragement our team remains divided, but that’s okay. It is just a Christmas tree after all.
Which traditions are you willing to tinker with? We’ll be back to the ol’ pine tree next year so I’ll need some new ideas to play with…
Have a lovely weekend,