Holiday Madness

Oh, QUARANtree, Oh, QUARANtree . . .

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” Charlie Brown Christmas

I had some badass Christmas trees. In fact, one year my husband and I somehow dragged home a colossal 9 1/2 foot Frasier Fir, which was definitely a back-breaker but the best tree ever. The next year everything changed. When my guy died a few months before Christmas, it was hard to find merry anywhere. So I did the only thing I could do – I adapted. I made things manageable. I kept the most priceless traditions, launched some new and pitched the rest. First up – downsize all my supersize expectations – including the tree. A few things, however, were non-negotiable, and none more important than my eclectic collection of well-loved ornaments.

“Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard or too sad when you’ve got a Christmas tree in the living room.” Nora Roberts

Seriously, how could I part with Pinocchio from my Florence honeymoon, or the sequined, glitzy chatzkas lovingly made by my once grade school nuggets? And that lumpy stuffed star made in the blizzardy winter my BFF and I were heavily pregnant? Mended often, it still has a place near the shabby toy soldier from my childhood tree. Pictures of every kid and grand are absolute musts. That San Francisco trolley from the first travel review work trip I took solo after my husband left the building? Yes and yes. After all, trees may be small or artificial; emotions not so much.

This year, the Christmas tree is a wee bit more Charlie Brown. It happens. But, as life-changing events go, it doesn’t make the cut. In a crazy year like 2020, Christmas tree size is the least of your problems. COVID-19 is centerpiece of everything we do and think. Washing hands, staying socially distant and wearing a mask is the only way we can unwrap a healthier new year.

“Christmas is a box of tree ornaments that have become part of the family.” Charles Schultz

So, yes, this year Santa arrives with a mask. Surprise. It isn’t like we saw his mouth under that beard much anyway. But, even if all these changes challenge your vision of traditional Christmas, it doesn’t have to be a Bah Humbug season either. So, maybe this one is the suckiest, plaid bellbottoms of holiday seasons. You know, the one where ‘Grandma got ran over by a reindeer’ is a never-ending earworm. You can still give it your best shot. Put on that tacky, blinking holiday sweater for a ZOOM family soiree. Bundle up with a friend for a socially distanced walk. Binge watch Christmas Story, because, well, life IS fraa-jeel-aay! Or, truck out a few of your own laugh-until-you-cry holiday home movies. Even if we’re not in the same room, this Christmas will go down in family lore just the same.

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.” Larry Wilde

Through the years, my kids grew into their own homes, their own babies and Christmas celebrations. Hot chocolate for 5 shrunk to two and now a single chai latte. Red and green everything morphed into a refined coastal look of blue, white and silver. But the tree, oh the tree, is forever an ode to homey, sentimental creativity. We all need that one thing to remind us of who we are. And the tree is one of mine.

Sneak peak at a few of the Christmas culprits.

This year, who and how we are is affected by everyone around us – and we to them. It will take all, not just some, to make a difference, to change the trajectory of this pandemic. Our world, our families, and our health demand it. As in many dark times of war and poverty, fear, grief or division, the true spirit of the holiday remains. Draw back the Wizard of Oz’ Christmas curtain to find the real deal, the part that isn’t just a glittery, Hallmark holiday-wrapped movie. You’ll find true strength, and kindness —  even if it’s socially distanced. Life is never perfect, but it is mostly good, even blessed, not with fairy dust but crayon marks, dog hairs and milk (or wine) spills. It’s the timeless moral fables that sucker us back to Christmas each season, in traditions that are just memories in motion.

“Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind.” Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th St.

In a season that thrives on togetherness, group hugs and lots of connection, we need to stay 6 feet apart. It sucks. Take that from a serial hugger. We’re all fatigued, tired of our aloneness and, I’m sure I channel the Grinch, who said, “I could use a little social interaction.” Just not this year.

May we all be blessed with inspiration, kindness, compassion and love. No matter where you are, or how your holidays have been revised, I wish you the best the season can offer along with both safety and good health in a heck of a lot better new year.

So, don’t be a cotton headed ninny muggins. The best way to spread Christmas 2020 cheer, is to wear a mask – from-ear-to-ear.


4 thoughts on “Oh, QUARANtree, Oh, QUARANtree . . .”

  1. OMG this is the BEST BEST BEST one EVA!!!!!!!! Mari – you are amazing! I hope you can find a way to pitch a book of your essays and short stories – maybe you have to write some that do not appear in your blog(s) to save (and savor) for the book. This is absolutely perfect and as good as anything my writing teacher brings to the class. I am back with Lisa Garrigues, the original writing memoir (author of Writing Motherhood) teacher I started with at the Ridgewood Y.

    Love you!!!

    Xoxoxoxoxo Christine Mirante



    1. You are the sweetest! Thank you, thank you. Maybe, after all your classes, I’ll have to work with you one day to actually grow these posts into a book. We’ve shared and learned so much together through the years – love you always.


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