Looking at catalogues used to be a mother-daughter bonding activity in our household. In the 1960s, my mother and I pored happily over the Sears Christmas catalogues. She put checkmarks beside mini-dresses that would look “adorable”on me, and I circled mini-dresses for my Tammy doll, and put multiple exclamation points beside the very cool Tammy dollhouse, which had a soda fountain, ping pong table, and jukebox.
In the last years of Mom’s life, I lugged a shopping bag of catalogues to the nursing home. We spent hours flipping through Talbot’s, Land’s End, and Harry and David. We speculated, “What would Michelle Obama wear?” or “What would Hillary wear?”
Since Mom died in 2013, I have lost all desire to shop for the holidays. Ironically, I am so glutted with catalogues this year that I schlepped 40 directly from the mailbox to the recycling bin last week.
Happy Holidays, Jingle Bell Rock, etc. but I no longer swoon over pictures of Christmas trees and ask , “Would our Christmas be improved if we ordered a tiny decorated evergreen tree from L. L. Bean that we could later plant outside?”
Or maybe I do.
My husband says we don’t need a potted evergeen. He says the ground would be too hard for planting it.
I say, “You wait till spring!”
He says, “But do we want an evergreen?”
No, we’d rather plant a maple.
And yet I look at the catalog and think, MAYBE THIS IS THE YEAR.
THE YEAR OF THE REAL CHRISTMAS TREE!
And the cats enjoy an artificial tabletop tree that lives in the basement year-round. The branches are so unkempt from cat love that we no longer bring it upstairs.
My holiday decorating has always been sporadic, but Mom took it seriously. I fondly remember her silver aluminum tree with blue ornaments. After I moved away from home, she acquired some scary huge white-clad angel dolls that moved their arms when she plugged them in. She also had a white flocked Christmas tree in the shower in the basement. Obviously nobody used the shower. “Do you want it?” she would ask. No. Now I sort of wish I had. What happened to the angel dolls?
“Do you realize we’ve never had a real Christmas tree?” I ask my husband.
“We have a real Christmas tree,” he says indignantly.
“That’s an artificial tree.”
Would I enjoy a real tree so late in the game of Christmases? I’m past the age where I would enjoy stringing popcorn while we listen to Jingle Bell Rock or watch A Christmas Carol. And the cats really prefer batting ornaments on the floor like soccer balls to seeing them on the tree.
And guess who would vacuum up the evergreen needles?
It is unnecessary to replicate the holiday from old Christmas cards or my favorite Betsy-Tacy books. Every family has its own traditions. Ours? Go to the bookstore on Christmas Eve, plug in our tinsel trees, make a dinner from Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking, and watch Christmas in Connecticut. It’s good enough.