I love Christmas trees. Once ours is up, the holiday seems more real to me. There’s something about the smell, the lights and the memories from all the ornaments that make the holidays come to life.
This year’s tree reminds me of the tree I got for the very first apartment that I rented by myself. I’d lived on my own for about 10 years since my parents and I had parted ways (you can read about why we parted ways, here), but I had always had roommates to share the costs and this was the very first apartment that I lived in by myself.
It was in West Orange, New Jersey on the first floor of a 2 story building on a busy street. The apartment was pretty shabby and if my daughter or son were to move into an apartment like it today, I’d be worried as it wasn’t the safest of neighborhoods. But back then, I was so happy to be living in my very own apartment for the first time that I didn’t even see any of its negatives.
The large apartment had an eat-in kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom with parquet wooden floors throughout. I could just barely afford the rent of $425.00 a month and didn’t actually have enough furniture to fill all of the rooms for the first few years. My roomy dining room was completely empty that first year so I decided to put my first big fat Christmas tree up smack in the middle of it so it wouldn’t look so bare.
I have no idea how I managed to get that big tree into the apartment by myself, but once I got it set up, it filled the dining room quite perfectly. I had no money to buy decorations but managed to rustle up the cash for a few strings of white lights and was pondering how I was going to fill it up with costly glass ornaments when I unexpectedly happened upon a charming shop in the Village in New York City one afternoon. The shop had inexpensive, colorful, sparkly, old-fashioned cardboard ornaments with gold trim that caught the lights on the tree and I bought a few sets for about $20 bucks.
I got home that night and put them up, along with the lights, and stood back in awe as my beautiful first Christmas tree came to life. As I stood there marveling at how beautiful my tree was, I realized how far I’d come from that Christmas season of ten years ago, the year that my parents had kicked me out. Somehow putting together that tree on a shoestring, made me realize that I was on the other side of that time; that I was going to be okay and my life ahead was going to be all right, even without my folks.
This year, both of my college-age kids are home and the house is warm and cozy as we settle in for a quiet holiday. The tree is beautiful, full of old ornaments handed down from my parents, from the kid’s arts and crafts projects across the years, from our many family vacations and gifts from friends. The tree is a reminder of how far we’ve come and how grateful I am for all that we have.
Funny how a tree can bring up so many memories. Here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!