Every year, I go Christmas crazy. I don’t mean baking cookies or making lists. I mean whole hog decorating. I scout Bed, Bath and Beyond for LED willow branches and Pier One for their rhinestone throw pillows that no one will want to lean on. I buy stuff that will only be used for three more weeks before it’s hauled back to storage. Yes, Christmas crazy.
I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. My Mom, Mary Finlayson, was never interested in decorating for the holidays other than saying, “Look at our sad sack house. We should at least put up a few candles.” That was enough to send me to the basement to dig up last year’s stuff and then head out to buy more of anything that twinkled. As long as I was willing to trim it, hang it, fluff it up, I could accessorize to my heart’s content. After hours of bedazzling, I’d stand outside on the sidewalk gazing proudly at our little Philadelphia rowhouse– my handmade version of Whoville.
Growing up, our family was never allowed to have a real pine tree because Mom said she was allergic. So each year, I would assemble our aluminum tree, which was really a silver-painted broomstick with holes where we stuck the silver pom pom branches, added our assortment of mismatched ornaments and ho-ho-ho! Instant tree. We put our gifts under that same anemic tree for at least 15 years until my senior year in college. That year, inspired by my 70s back-to-nature spirit and a cute boyfriend, I went on a tree-cutting date and brought a beautiful balsam to my parents’ house, declaring the beginning of the Finlayson fresh tree tradition.
We decorated it with every old ornament from our well worn boxes. I may even have strung popcorn in a fit of ye good ole days. The fragrance was Christmas itself. And Mom smiled. “Hey, Mom, why aren’t you sneezing? I thought you were allergic.” “No, never was,” Mom smiled. “I just didn’t want to clean up all those pine needles.”
Mom’s gone now. I think about her every time I place an ornament on my overdone tree. Yep, still crazy after all these years.
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