November 29 – It Was Never About The Tree

by Becky T. Lane

I saw a string of comments on Facebook yesterday, all from young wives and mothers, about everything they were having to do to get ready for the holidays while their hubbies, for the most part, observed from their thrones. Brought back painful memories of some of my more dramatic pouting sessions in years gone by. If only I’d known then what I know now.

It got me to thinking, about a book I picked up a couple of years ago called On Strike for Christmas, by Sheila Roberts. It was about a group of women in a small town who got fed up with killing themselves to create the perfect holiday for their families each year, and getting little to no help or appreciation for their efforts. So, they all banded together to declare a strike, leaving it completely up to the men to make Christmas happen that year. Think you know how this story will end? Think again!

Like almost every other woman who picked this book up off the shelf, I was ready to settle in for a good dose of male-bashing, and there was just enough of that to make it funny. But there was also a good dose of introspection–enough to leave me with a guilty conscience. As it turns out, our women’s penchant for perfectionism is at least partially to blame for this yearly stand-off. Thankfully, I’ve finally realized that trying to pull off a perfect Martha Stewart holiday each year will only leave you feeling bitter, exhausted, and lonely. Too bad it took me so long to figure that out.

My family still hasn’t come to grips with the new me. Just the other day I heard Dear Daughter exclaim “Mom could never stand not putting up a tree for Christmas. She’d go nuts if she didn’t get to decorate her tree!” They just don’t get it. It was never about the tree. It was about the experience–about trying to recreate that perfect Hallmark moment where everyone is gathered together, stringing popcorn, decorating the tree, sipping hot cocoa, laughing and singing carols. Unfortunately, dragging my family away from computer, TV and video games, and forcing them to participate in tree-trimming, never made for a laughing, singing group. It made for a very grumpy group. But, there were other ways to get the experience I was after. If, for instance, I were to announce to my clan that we were off to the annual outdoor performance of TUBACHRISTMAS, or to stroll a street market, followed by hot chocolate and churros at a favorite cafe, they’d be elbowing each other out-of-the-way!
to be first in the car.

And so, at last, I can live without a perfectly decorated tree. For, you see, it was never about the tree!

Becky Lane has spent most of her life figuring out what it means to be “living the good life.” She and her husband now live on four acres in the Texas Hill Country, in a house called “Seasonality.” She chronicles their transition from big-city-suburbanites to slow-life-practitioners on her blog of the same name.

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6 responses to “November 29 – It Was Never About The Tree

  1. Oh Becky, this rocks! My nonchalant attitude about the season is at least partly due to having lived thousands of miles from relatives for over a quarter century now. But since my isolated situation is uncharacteristic of the strongly family-centric Pittsburgh culture, my observations are routinely discounted. I am forwarding this post to a dozen local friends. Will they “get it” from a Texan with local family? It’s worth a try! Thanks for this story.

    • Sharon, I come from a family who believes more is more, and your home should look ready for a photo shoot at all times. It’s taken me years and years to wear them down a bit, but they are finally opening up to some of my suggestions for scaling back. I even convinced them to draw names a couple of years ago, and they all love it now!

  2. I know what you mean. I worked so hard to provide a peaceful, beautifully decorated home at Christmas. Had parties where everyone raved about the food and the relaxed festive atmosphere. Then my husband offered up the following reason as to why he had an affair with a 23 year old… too many Christmas decorations! Good grief!!! Now I decorate to please myself and my son. Instead of a huge Christmas party I have a Winter Solstice Supper welcoming back the light. Simple, elegant, and all mine!

  3. This is a wonderful post Becky…and I certainly can relate to it! I was a perfectionist for many years and ended up stressing out about the holidays until I realized what you said–it isn’t about the tree. We’re so pressured in our society to achieve this ideal holiday image foisted on us by the media and the merchants that we lose sight of the joy that comes from the simple and important things in life.

    • Cathy, I agree. The media has a lot to do with our need for perfectionism. I’m so much happier now that I let all my magazine subscriptions lapse, and quit watching Martha Stewart on TV. It reminds me of when our kids were small and we lived in Indonesia. That first Christmas, when I asked them to write their letters to Santa, they couldn’t think of anything at all to ask him for! Why? Because they were no longer being bombarded with TV ads telling them what they “need”!

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