The inherited traits of tree trimming

Photo by Page Evans

“Okay, you need to move the horse to where the bird is,” Katherine directs from the side of the room. She has stepped back from our tree-trimming session to assess ornament symmetry.

A new use for Katherine's lacrosse stick (Photo by: Page Evans) A new use for Katherine's lacrosse stick

“Do you not see that, Mommy? What were you thinking, putting all  those pears on one side?” She walks up closer, pointing her finger at three glittery pears hung next to each other like Orion’s Belt.

“Really?” I say, stepping back for perspective. “Huh, you’re right. We need to spread them out a bit.”

I stare at her, thinking, What have I created? My 11-year-old is turning into a mini-me. She is taking the art of tree-trimming to new heights. Just as my own mother did. Just as I do.  I’m not a Mommy Dearest mom, and neither was my mother, but we are both  aesthetically obsessed when it comes to the tree. 

I wish I could let things be. I wish I could let go and allow the mayhem of the holidays to flow over me. Breathe. Accept. Chill.

But I’m not hardwired that way. I’m hardly a perfectionist.  Ask anyone who knows me. A friend calls me a catastrophile. (There are the piles of paper in various corners of my house, which I’ll discreetly shove under chairs or in closets when tidying up. Which is why some bills go unpaid--a result of being hidden in places I can’t remember.) But I do want things to look a certain way. Some might call my devotion to dim lights and votives a borderline psychological disorder. I’ve been known to dim the lights in friends’ homes when they’re not looking. After all, who wants their living room to have the ambience of an operating room? 

I have standards. And at Christmas, it starts with the tree. As I learned from my mother, place the biggest, shiniest items on the inside branches. That way, the tree glows from within, particularly when you place the lights just so. Then make sure to have a nice mix of old and new: children’s hand-made treasures, flea market finds, found objects from nature, like dried hydrangea, or store-bought ones from Target. I have a few red ornaments, but I gravitate toward shades of green and silver. All of these things combined create not just the tree’s look, but it’s soul. The key is in the mix--and placement. 

With A Charlie Brown Christmas playing in the background, our decorating session is winding down. We are at the tweaking stage and Katherine looks pleased. Until she catches a glimpse of our angel tilting precariously. Climbing on a chair, she uses her lacrosse stick to adjust the angel’s 

Clearly, the ornament does not fall far from the tree.

0 Comments For This Article

John Boffa

My sympathies! My mother always was and continues to be a perfectionist about what is placed where on the Christmas tree. It's an annual exercise, and she seems to know exactly where everthing belongs and what brings a tree into perfect balance. It's tedious, but decade after decade, the tree remains beautiful.