“I decided on red for the theme this year,” my mother said to me, stating the obvious, as she caught me scrutinizing the crimson-clad conifer in her living room. Having just arrived at my parents’ home in Virginia after a rather boring but fortunately uneventful 7-hour drive up I-95, I was mesmerized at the results of her artistic pursuits. “Babs, you done good!” I joked back at her.
You see, as polar opposite as my mother and I are in our interior design tastes, one thing we do share in common is our seriousness about our holiday décor, especially when it comes to trimming the Christmas tree. Although we each take a very different approach to adorning and finessing the holiday fire-hazard, it’s a big-to-do for us and is truly the centerpiece of our seasonal endeavors. It’s a passion we have shared for as long as I can remember.
I put up a live tree. Well, it was live at some point, probably a lot longer ago than the nice gentlemen at the tree lot will admit. Judging by the amount of needles they shed each season, I figure they are cut down in mid-October. Or maybe it is late summer. All I know is come January, my poor vacuum cleaner threatens to run away from home!
My mother will have none of that mess. It is full-on faux, man-made, artificial tannenbaum for her. And, I must say, for a fake tree, hers is pretty good. And it is an older one, as I remember it from annual duty in a previous house some years ago. It does not necessarily look real (the shape is way too perfect) but it does an absolutely fabulous job of showcasing her ornaments, which is, let’s face it, a big part of the tree.
My tree is chaotic, over-the-top, and frivolous. Since I obviously get a different “fresh” one each year, thus the shape and proportions vary from season to season as well. I have certain cherished ornaments collected over the years which I like to showcase, but I do try to place them at different vantage points from year to year to keep things interesting. I also use different tree-toppers to mix things up. A mix of strands of clear lights, multi-color lights, chartreuse lights and purple lights provides the illumination.
My mother’s tree is very structured and methodical, but by no means stiff or static. She does a very cleaver mix of whimsical ornaments amassed (she has a penchant for frogs) combined with favorites from my and my siblings’ childhood (a 1970’s-era plastic Snoopy with reindeer antlers on red skis being my absolute fave) and whatever strikes her fancy that season. This year being red, she mixed in both matte and shiny-finish balls, graduated in size from smaller diameter at the top of the tree to larger ones at the bottom. The result is spectacular and fresh. She had a brief fling with multi-color lights back in the very early eighties, but she is strictly a clear white light devotee now.
Knowing I am going to host a Christmas Eve dinner at home in Savannah this year, Babs is already quizzing me about my tablescape as well as the menu (to say that she is slightly annoyed I will not be sitting at her table that night is an understatement). I assure her that I will be every much the humble host as she is humble hostess for the holiday festivities and will be every much as (not-so-humble) tree-proud!