True value is never determined until the moment before it evaporates.
And as I hung ornaments on the family Christmas tree this year, I realized that soon it would be a fleeting memory. I don’t know what it will feel like to come home just for the holidays, but somehow I know it won’t be the same. I wonder if my dog will even remember me?
This is my last real Christmas; next year I will be a stranger in my own home, an intruder to the familiar scene of my living room. Next year, I won’t be able to identify the cards on the mantle or the cookie tin on the counter–it will all be new to me, I will be a visitor instead of a resident.
When I come home from college during breaks, I predict my brother will have taken my seat at the dinner table–he always wanted it because it has the best view of the TV–and I will sit in the empty chair that we usually keep the newspaper on.
My mom called me away from my English paper, and as I walked down the stairs I could see my brother sitting on the couch eating a Slim Jim. He complained about the music selection and ran upstairs to change the radio station. Michael Buble’s rendition of “Let It Snow” soon hummed from the speakers. My parents lectured me about grades, and I tried to justify slacking off.
The tea kettle screamed, adding to the noise, and my brother put in so much half-and-half that the tea turned white.
My mom, brother, and I conspired to hide my Dad’s Egyptian mask ornaments on the back of the tree, while he complained that they really weren’t “that ugly.”
We sifted through the boxes and my brother and I argued about whose baby ornaments were cuter. His were, but I didn’t admit it. Old, handmade glitterballs and cartoon figures soon decorated our tree.
The head fell off one of my mom’s cork reindeer. My brother almost tipped over the tree. My dad was a little grumpy. But we were happy.
A friend recently tried to tell me that Christmas trees had to be tasteful, and that tacky was simply out of the question.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s okay that some Christmas trees are tacky–because family is tacky– they’re loud and obnoxious, but you love them all the same.
The physical location of home can change, but home is not always a place–it’s people. And Christmas trees, however decorated or undecorated, fake or sticky with sap, are full of tradition and memories–of all the things that define home.
So, let people put up their tacky lights and hang the macaroni ornaments up top near the angel.
Because when I come home next year, even if everything else has changed–that Christmas tree will still be the same.
Even if my parents decide to paint the living room, and my brother has finally grown taller than me–we will still bring the same old boxes down from the attic. Amid the dust and bubble wrap will be the same cracked Gingerbread man and Scooby-Doo ornaments. We will still argue even though it’s Christmas. And the air will still smell like pine.
So, yes, I agree that white lights and a silver or gold (but not both!) color-scheme looks classy, arguably even better than a “tasteless” splurge of lights. But what it lacks is the unique family feel that defines the word “home.” A house decorated with simple wreaths and candles is “classic” while the one with a blow-up snowman and a candy-cane lined driveway is called “tacky.” But there is something about an obsession with a bourgeois Christmas that just strikes me as incredibly cold.
I cannot find anything wrong with “tacky” decorations or an excess of lights. Sure, there will always be Christmas snobs, frowning and condescending upon them–but their negativity will not be able to douse the shine. Because when I leave my family, friends and Christmas tree behind when I leave for college, I will still be able to see the tacky, luminous lights from miles away.
Take that, Jones.
Of course I was grumpy. You were making fun of my Egyptian mask ornaments!
Rats! Now I can’t throw away the cracked gingergread man or Scooby Doo ornaments. And you will never be a stranger in our home!
I really enjoyed your article! You could have been talking about my family except the kids in my household have come back from being away at college to decorate the tree and have since they graduated high school. I think I would prefer the word “tradition” to your word of “tacky”. That is what traditions are all about – taking the time to do the same things together as a family year after year to make them special for your family regardless of the way others view them.