“Parenthood,” Cats & Trees

It was supposed to look like this!

It was supposed to look like this!

I’m not  a holiday kind of gal.   Christmas is for families, not couples.

But I’ve been sick this week, with the cold from hell.  Really.  I was so wrecked from cold pills and Nyquil that I binge-watched Season 4 of Parenthood, a high-end prime time soap opera (2010-2015).  I love the characters, three generations of the Braverman family, who are beautiful, talented, dysfunctional, and occasionally very annoying.  Sarah (Lauren Graham from The Gilmore Girls) wrecked her relationship with her fiance, Mark (Jason Ritter), the most adorable English teacher on the planet, to accompany her moody photographer boss, Hank (Ray Romano), to L.A. for a “work” weekend.  (Sarah, you will never find anyone like Mark again!)  Julia, a corporate lawyer on the partner track, made a huge mistake at work and surprisingly resigned to stay home with her adopted son, Victor.  And my favorite character on the show, Christina (Monica Parter), had breast cancer.  Poor Christina!  She’s the rock of her family.  The season was very dramatic.

Christmas is a big deal for the Bravermans. Nobody acts out on Christmas.  It’s TV. And I loved Julia’s Christmas decorations.

And so I decided to decorate. My options were limited, since I was sick. I ordered two artificial trees, a  6-ft.-tall tree for the living room and a small tabletop tree for the study.   I mean I’m not going to get real trees, right?  I’m not going to plant them afterwards.

My plan? I would assemble the trees while my husband was at work and surprise him.

Want to know how this went for me?

First, the 6-ft. tree came without an instruction booklet.  I was told there were no spare instruction booklets and offered a  discount.  I assembled it by myself–sort of.  You have to “fluff out” the branches.  Ouch.  They’re scratchy.  And the bolts didn’t fit in the tree stand.  It was wobbly.  It looked okay once decorated.

And, yup, after I left the room, the cats knocked it over.  Now it’s leaning against the bookcase in the study.  Rickety, but Christmasy.

The tabletop tree is fine!  A nice steady stand, thank God.  Since it can stand up alone, it’s in the living room.  But the cats are hilarious.  Unfortunately they will not leave the decorations alone.

Forget the ball-shaped ornaments.  The two youngest cats jumped up and down athletically, determined to rip them off the tree.  The balls are now cat toys.

The youngest cat spent an hour pawing tiny gold bells and miniature fake packages off the tree.

So they’re now officially cat toys.  Every morning I get up, put the decorations back, and vacuum.  But I don’t mind.  The cats are so happy!  And the winter is so boring for them.

Jingle Bell Rock, Catalogues & Christmas Trees

The very cool 1960s Tammy doll house!

The very cool 1960s Tammy doll house!

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.


tinsel christmas trees and tigger IMG_0574I love our tiny kitschy tinsel trees decorated with LED lights. Put in a battery and they light up.

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.