Our Christmas tree is in the kitchen this year, definitely an odd place for a 6-foot tree. It’s a tight fit. But the kitchen is where we hang out now, the kitchen and the family room right next to it, not the fancier living room where we and past Christmas trees lived.
Putting a tree in the kitchen was Charlotte’s idea, Charlotte my 13-year-old granddaughter who loves Christmas the way I love Halloween. Come fall, witches crowd my kitchen. They sit on the counter, hang from the ceiling, block the doorway, witches that cackle when you bump into them, or whose eyes light up when you drop a pot.
One silent Christmas tree would be no problem, I told my granddaughter.
There was a problem, however. We both wanted to put up this kitchen tree right then. That day. Immediately. And because that day was in early November, buying a real tree, which we have always done, was not an option. A real tree, by Christmas day, would be deader than dead, its needles all over the floor.
So off we went to Polillio’s Garden Center in Stoughton because last December, inside this shop, which every Christmas season is transformed into a little Santa’s village, I’d seen a giant, pre-lit white tree, which had bewitched me, but which I didn’t buy because it was last year and there was no need for bewitching. But this year? If Charlotte loved that giant white Christmas tree?
It would be ours.
Charlotte did love it. And so did I. And we almost chose it. But we loved a 6-foot pre-lit green tree better. “It’s perfect, Mimi,” Charlotte said, and I agreed. I drove it home, we dragged it out of the trunk, and Charlotte, who is better at these things than I am, assembled it.
For the first few days this tree shared its small space with a witch I wasn’t quite ready to pack away. An unlikely pair, a witch and a Christmas tree. But the combination was perfect. It made us smile.
Now the witch is in the basement with all the other witches, and the Christmas tree stands alone. Candy canes and shiny ornaments festoon it. It’s the first thing we see when we come into the house, or walk from upstairs into the kitchen. We keep its lights on. It greets us. It makes us smile, too.
I am buffered by these smiles. The grandkids, my husband, our daughters — they could say, “The kitchen is not a place for a Christmas tree.” They could complain that the tree is fake, and not full of the ornaments we use every year, ornaments that hold our history. They could look at this tree and see it as one more thing that COVID-19 has taken from us — the loss of a tradition.
But they don’t. They see it merely as what it is: something different.
And maybe that’s the key to all this. How we choose to see things.
It’s not the same as going to the movies, but there are hundreds of movies on TV.
It’s not the same a live holiday concert, but there is Christmas music on Spotify and Pandora.
It’s not the same as being together with friends and family, but there’s Zoom. And FaceTime.
My grandkids are learning remotely. They’ve been going to school in their bedrooms since March. They could bemoan this. But they don’t. They break for lunch. They make what they feel like eating and watch TV for 20 minutes. Then they go back to school. Then they do their homework.
It’s not the same as school used to be. But it’s still school.
I would trade my kingdom for a meal at a fancy restaurant. I miss restaurants, the clinking of glasses, linen napkins, rolls served warm, French onion soup. Shrimp scampi, being waited on.
But, Charlotte cooks dinner twice a week. The 13-year-old is the best cook in our crazy, multi-generational family. “I can make this,” she said a few months into this pandemic. And when we all sat down and inhaled her meal, Charlotte smiled.
Charlotte’s smile? Every time I see it, I forget all about restaurants.
There will be no mall Santas this year. No friends stopping by. No holiday parties. No carolers. But there will be Christmas. And Christmas, like Charlotte’s meals, like a Christmas tree in a kitchen, may not just surprise us, but may well sustain us.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at email@example.com.