O Christmas Tree

Whenever I do something in my life that is odd (frequently), I like to stop in the moment to say a silent thank you to my dearest crazy Granny Goose, who passed her crazy genes down to me, thus making my life more interesting by filling it with socially awkward moments.

My Granny Goose is my mother's mother. We share a middle name, a fondness for things to be just-so, and a penchant for agonizingly long and thoughtful shopping trips.

My Granny Goose has this green plastic Christmas tree that goes up sometime in November before Thanksgiving, and then she worries over that tree until some time around midnight on Christmas Eve, at which point the tree is finally done to her liking.

It is kind of fun to call her during the Christmas season because inevitably you will get into an everlastingly long discussion about the state of her Christmas tree. These conversations are hilarious and wonderful, and I will love them forever.

This is my mother-in-law Eldene's tree. She had it up for us and said, "decorate it!" And I was like, just like that? Just decorate it? No weird rules or requirements or anything? Just have at it?

That is so not how the women in my family do Christmas trees.

This here is my mother's tree:

My mother's tree is a thing to behold.  There is a Mexico section and a Jesus section. There is a Santa section and a clock section. There is an ugly ornament section. Then there is an ornament section for each of us kids.

My mother tends to obsess over ornament placement all Christmas long. Every night you will find her passing by the tree on her way to do something, when the tree compels her to stop to rearrange a few ornaments. Then she cocks her head to the side, puts a hand to her hip, and says "hmmm" before walking away.

Last year was the first year I was allowed to help her decorate this tree. When we were kids there was a family tree and then there was THE JULIE TREE. Sometimes it would take my mom days to complete her tree, while our ramshackle family tree was done in under an hour, tops. My sisters and I liked to stand around the family tree and drum on the ornaments with candy canes in time to Johnny Mathis on the stereo. I think this has something to do with the reason my mom has her own tree in the first place. We were not allowed to touch her tree. We were not allowed to breathe on it.

Decorating that tree with her last year was a momentous occasion for me. Because my mother is insane in the very best way. I'd hang an ornament and she'd say, "Now, that belongs over here." Or, "That ornament should go here, to draw the eye up." Then she'd follow behind me and take the ornaments that I'd just hung and rehang them somewhere else, somewhere better.

This year over Thanksgiving weekend Amanda and Alex helped with her tree, too. I nearly had a heart attack when Amanda announced that this year there would be no sections. This year, the tree would be integrated! They haphazardly threw ornaments all over the tree while I agonizingly placed one ornament at a time and then ran all over the room to make sure it looked good from all the important angles. My mom stayed pretty cool about it, only stopping us once or twice to remind us to keep the ornament dispersion even. I couldn't believe it. Had my mother lost her mind? Invasion of the body snatchers?

But later that night as I was running the puppies out for a potty break, I saw her walk past her and pause. Slowly she reached for an ornament. Then she said "hmm" . . .

Ten minutes later when we came back in from our walk, my mom was still at her tree, moving ornaments, her head cocked to one side, one hand on her hip.

This is why, dearest husband, when you noticed it had been a full three hours and I still hadn't finished hanging the ball ornaments (the important first step to a successful tree, as we all know), I had to smile.

It's genetic, I guess.
My Tree:
(I'm real proud of her)


  1. Every year I try and be sophisticated and elegant with my tree. The intentions are there, however with kids it never turns out that way. It is all well though because I'll be darned if I'm going to sacrifice the memories and family time of decorating our tree together just to have a sophisticated and elegant tree. Of course I like the idea of a Mom tree just for me! Your mom is a very smart woman!

  2. Ha ha ha--we have a version of The Julie Tree" at the Muir/Moore homestead! It's called "The Nordstrom Tree," though, and it's only been in existance a few years. My mom (who singlehandedly keeps Nordstrom's clothing industry afloat) has ALWAYS wanted a classy, elegant Christmas tree--the kind you see in the lobby of Nordstrom's in December. But she lives with Jim. So every year she has to bow to the inevitable and forgo her dream of a Nordstrom tree while Jim plans his newest and greatest Christmas tree ever. We've had black-flocked trees. We've had 1950's-era metal trees lit with spotlights. We've had trees that actually blow styrafoam snow onto themselves with a perpetual hissing sound. We've even had upside-down trees. One year Jim even hung a Schwinn bicycle upside down from the ceiling as though it were a present underneath his upside-down tree. And Jim has always been stopped from trying his ultimate Christmas idea--a tree that looks like it's going through the roof of our house (and, of course, the top of this gargantuan tree would in fact be anchored to the roof so as to complete the visual). I believe Christmas of 2005 was the first year Mom was finally allowed a normal, elegant, classy Nordstrom tree. And Jim was bored with it.

    I myself have no interesting tree stories. BUT...I am totally like your mom at all times of the year. Karl finally admitted to me that since we've been married, he has secretly gone around the house and left things just a bit askew. He won't tell me WHAT he does, but he says he'll rearrange things so they're just a bit "off," and then wait to see if I fix them. Apparently I fix things about half the time. Can you believe that?!? The phrase "Megan--LEAVE IT" has become almost an anthem at our house! I am so underminded.

  3. Um, okay--the word is "undermined." Not "underminded." I'm tired. And apparently not much of a spellchecker!


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