COVID coping mechanisms are copious chez moi. Compulsive cleaning is among the more productive of our pandemic proclivities – one that has revealed actual floor space in our basement. But it is space that reopens an old wound.
“Do not even think of asking me to put that monstrosity together,” my husband admonishes, pointing his finger at six large, lumpy burgundy bags strewn across the floor.
Sometimes we look for plastic perfection to lighten up the long dark days of winter. Sometimes this is a mistake. A mistake in six plastic parts. Plus, a base upon which the contents of said six bags are assembled. Let me explain.
Back in 2018 we were still recovering from a particularly harrowing trip to the Christmas Tree Lot (about which I’ve written here), when I fell victim to the siren song of an internet advertisement (dang Cookies) for Balsam Hill’s tremendous after-Christmas sale. Their trees are exquisite and the most realistic, according to an acquaintance who researches such things.
I shall vanquish our bad tree lot karma – plastic shall be our salvation! Or so I hypothesized as I typed my credit card’s digits into the virtual checkout that would deliver a conflict-free, perfect Christmas.
“Yes!“ I typed to a pre-lit-15 foot-Vermont Spruce tree. And I didn’t stop there – my house would be a perfectly coiffed Christmas home. I added two decorative potted pines (now referred to as Hanukkah bushes) – and that was just from Balsam Hill. 2020 was selling off 2019 at a steep discount. I bought cedar and verbena soy candles, mercury glass containers in which to watch their flames dance. There were the dangling ornaments that would surely inspire visions of sugar plums. Instead of arguing at a Christmas Tree lot, we’d sip eggnog in front of the fire laughing at our tree lot folly of years past, enveloped in the quintessentially holiday home that UPS would deliver within eight to ten business days. I’d finally create the perfect holiday home for my family – and for the little girl whose childhood home was always elegantly appointed – but never festively so. It’s a twofer. All will be merry and bright.
“I don’t care what you do with those six bags of plastic bullshit,” my husband continues, “Leave it here or give it away. That Real-Housewives-of-Hell-worthy tree is not going up in this house.”
Welcome to Thanksgiving 2020, My husband and I stare at the six plastic bags containing what I realize now is the absurd nightmare that is the pre-lit 15-foot Vermont Spruce whose scale belongs in a skyscraper’s lobby not in our living room.
“Your turkey smells divine,” say I still lost in my plastic folly thoughts.
I admit, my first foray into faux was a fail. But I’d learned from the error of my mis-measuring ways. This time will be different. This time I’ll find a tree whose plastic perfection of symmetrical branches coiffed with evenly strung lights –a particularly perfect way to bid the hell that was 2020 adieu– will announce to all who enter that we have this holiday thing down.
“When will dinner be ready? The smell is making me hungry.”
“Amy, we’re not buying another faux anything for Christmas. Never. Don’t even think about it.
“Think about what?”.
“You’re a terrible liar.” My husband and master chef kisses me. “It’s one of” the things I love about you.”
Busted. I frown. I am a terrible liar. I have nothing ‘down’. Least of all “the holidays.” I am overwhelmed, imperfect and unsure. COVID has cast a harsh, claustrophobic, viral glow on my inadequacies. And no tree – fake, or real, Noble or Spruce – can hide this truth; perfection is an ideal that I will never achieve.
But my husband’s turkey does. Brown on the outside, moist within. Thanksgiving perfection.
The meal is heavenly.
And then it’s done.
“So, what do you want to do about a tree?” I ask as we clear the table.
Each of us pauses to mourn what Thanksgiving should’ve been. The pandemic traps us in place but time continues its steady march. And after a moment to collect ourselves, so do we.
“We are not using that thing from last year,” my 12-year-old son breaks the silence as he clears the tiny turkey platter.
My oh-so-supportive daughter clanks the empty glasses in her hand and sneers. “Why is it still in our house?”
“I could get a smaller…”
“I’ve learned….” I protest as we take everything into the kitchen.
“Real, we need a real one!” My trio says this in quick succession all while staring at me.
“No tree-vote for you this year,” my husband concludes as he turns on the in-sink food disposal. Our children nod.
One foray into plastic and I’m voted off of Christmas Tree Island.
And that is where our tree discussion ends – with mom admonished and no decision. Why? Because even though I drag out three bins with the Christmas decorations, no one I am related to – or anyone I know actually – feels a lot like Christmas this year. It just seems like one long day that morphs into another one. On some days we eat turkey. On others, we don’t. Pandemic fatigue brings out the scrooge out in all of us.