Christmas Through The Eyes of a Child
This is the first Christmas tree I have had as an adult. I’m 37 years old. It is 5 feet tall, and was the smallest in the lot the night my toddler picked it out. It’s accumulated a hefty assortment of homemade ornaments crafted from bits of nature, pre-school clay-and-paint creations, a hot pink hair band, a wreath made from a paper plate, a few bells, a popcorn garland, some tinfoil, and a piece of a real honey comb found in the woods.
I love it so much, it’s like I’ve been designing for 17 years how my first adult tree was going to turn out.
Except that’s not true. At all.
I grew up with Christmas trees, and generally loved Christmas in the way so many middle class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant children do. Boring and average.
But then, my dad skipped town for a long weekend one Christmas and reported upon his return that it was none of our business where he’d been. He gave my mom a used Stephen King book that year; it was 3 days late, and she hated Stephen King. War had been declared.
Then after my dad left altogether, my mom, who had worked in retail her whole career, publicly declared her utter disdain and contempt for Christmas. That BS my dad pulled, plus years of being inundated with the worst aspect of the commercialism of Christmas from the moment Thanksgiving was over, well, it just did her over. She was done. I was a teenager, and so it was pretty much time to move on, she figured.
Then I went to college, discovered and worshiped Adbusters magazine, took a lot of art classes, and proclaimed myself a hater of all things Christmas, too. I thought it would be supremely cool if someday I could participate in a shopping mall protest on Black Friday. I thought Christmas was another excuse for corporations to profit off of everyone.
Then I lived in rural El Salvador for 3 years where a well meaning community of Evangelical Christians prosthelytized to me all day, every day. Christmas was a very intense time. I was pretty sure I was an atheist, I knew I was an introvert, and a whole community of people saw it as their mission to convert me. I dug my heels in. Christmas was by then definitely a really rotten time.
Then I had nieces and nephews. I obliged in buying them a gift on Christmas, but I was honestly tortured over it. I felt they were ungrateful, whether they actually were or not. I thought new gifts were so wasteful – children get tired with toys too quickly, and so what was the point? I was extremely jaded on the inside, but pretended to the kids that it was ok. I have been known to assemble a Barbie house for a 7 year old with a strained smile on my face, garbage stewing in my heart.
Then I became a mental health therapist and I heard countless stories of other people’s holiday trauma. Lots of people really struggle this time of year. It kind-of validated my own pain, telling me something I hadn’t known before – that I was not alone.
Then I had a child of my own.
This is where the story really does start to sound like Hallmark card propaganda.
This winter she’s on the cusp of 3 years old. Just old enough to think presents are AWESOME. Just old enough to see the magic in elves and Santa and reindeer with red noses. Just old enough to squeal every night when she sees houses lit up in lights. Just old enough to LOVE making homemade ornaments and LOVE picking out her own tree and LOVE putting a pinwheel on top of it instead of a star.
So I’m reformed. There’s really no other word for it. All that vile hatred, all that trauma and negativity, all that anarchist identify formation I did in my 20s – it’s gone. Gone. Gone.
I’ve got this Charlie Brown tree in my living room and I admire it every day. I call it our nature shrine. The closets are full of wrapped presents, hidden away, purchased new and some full price. One of the presents is even a Disney character.
And I’m so glad that once a hater, not always a hater.