When I first moved out on my own, I insisted to my then bf that there be a Christmas tree NO MATTER WHAT. His family was Jewish so he couldn’t see why it would be important which I couldn’t understand because oh sweet baby Mensch on a Bench was I excited about the idea of celebrating Hanukkah. He was a buzzkill about most things which is why we wound up divorced but this was early into our relationship where he still nominally cared about making me happy. He worked at a large drug store and he dutifully brought me home the best fake tree we could afford; which is to say the saddest, barest little Charlie Brown Christmas tree ever because we were broke as hell. We didn’t really have money for ornaments besides some silver Christmas balls so I made little paper fans tied with ribbon and turned my seashell collection into ornaments. I didn’t know it at the time but it would become a very fond memory. How determined I was to make something out of almost nothing and how when I mention it now to my long time bestie cabal, we all laugh and think about how young we were together.
It was the only real attempt at holiday decorating I would make in my adult life until now. The tree took up too much space in one of the two closets in the Habitrail so we got rid of it. There was supposed to be a fresh tree but it just sort of never happened. Oh sure, we always threw up some roping, whatever bf I was living with at the time would bitch about even that being too much of a pain in the ass (I liked to date depressives until Jow!) and there never seemed to be enough time or money. I tried to tell myself keeping it simple somehow made us more Druid-like but I never really bought it.
This year has been very hard with too many deaths but we’ve also been financially secure for the first time . . .ever. Not like, let’s pop some Dom and celebrate but I paid for all my gifts in cash before Thanksgiving for the first time ever in my life. The year of my divorce, I spent the little amount of money I had to buy gifts for my loved ones only to have my car broken into, my gifts stolen and my back window smashed (it was the year of the economic collapse). The bitter/funny part is they didn’t bother to take the (at the time) expensive iPod or GPS, just some bags full of sweaters but oh how I wished they just took the iPod and GPS.
My mom was at the end of her rope from worrying about me and the zombie chic look I was pulling off on the daily and my refusal to eat anything except sun dried tomato triscuits and blue cheese crumbles so my little sister stepped in and came to my office and wrote me a check in a no nonsense sort of way for me to buy more gifts and a new window. It meant the world to me and I was sure to pay her back every penny. Despite being younger, my sister was never into name brands and smartly chose to be a flight attendant after college so she could be paid to see the world. So post-divorce, I learned a lot about money from her and how to spend it better. I had her go shopping with me and told her to go full-on with me so she would breathe down my neck every time I picked something up and say, “Do you really need that? Don’t you have one? You don’t need to spend that much money on shoes!” As a result of all that, I learned to get better with money.
My gift buying concluded early this year which is no mean feat with my nephew, my sister and Jow all having birthdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas on top of Christmas. It’s been a no-good-very-bad-year which I thought would make me even less inclined to want to decorate (last year’s hurricane had me so dispirited I collected evergreen branches from stricken trees and stuck them in vases all over the house and called it a day) but strangely, it’s had the opposite effect. Maybe because Christmas was always where my dad and uncle shined. My dad would put together incredibly elaborate multi-level train displays and one year surprised us with new bikes after climbing into the attic (unseen by us) and knocking on the ceiling to sound like reindeer. My uncle always made Italian-American Christmas cookies with my mom and would dress up like Santa for us when we were little. I feel both of their presence very strongly right now and I thought, I can throw myself into Christmas this year or be run over by it.
So I decided to throw myself in. Jow has been very supportive of this, faithfully changing the water in the olives I’m curing for gifts every day, helping me make Lavender-Thyme Lemoncello and whatever other psychosis. We picked a small but stately tree, a pink glittery poinsettia and roping and he paid for it without a peep. I bought all the woodland animal ornaments, stockings and ribbon to hang all the ornaments and strung cranberries and popcorn.
Last night we had our first Christmas decorating night. We put on A Darker Shade of Pagan‘s Yule Mix (this track was particularly epic) and we put everything up together. I made a wreath out of the left over roping that turned out v. nicely if I do say so myself. We then had a fondue feast (Cheese fondue, dried meat board, arugula salad with black truffle oil and lots of pink champagne). It was really nice and cozy. A lot of my Witchy mentors have said that I feel really settled and rooted this year. Committing to decorate and to have permanent ornaments feels like an extension of that. We both felt like it made us really married somehow. We decided it would be our tradition. And now we have someplace to put the presents for once!