O Christmas Tree

I’m a bit of a grinch.
Well, more of a grinch that I can necessarily care to admit.

As a child I can recall having excited holiday feels. It’s hard to share a birthday month with Christmas, but I remember my mom waiting until after my birthday (4th) and Dad’s (9th) before putting up a tree, saying that we deserved to have Christmas-free birthdays. This is something I’ve carried with me my entire life. But as I grew up I became more resentful of Christmas and what it was standing for. I became disenchanted with the shows, the shopping, the expectation, the food. Christmas became something to dread … after the excitement of my birthday was over I was desperate to get through the following three weeks as quickly as possible. I resented being asked what I wanted for Christmas (especially if the question came before my birthday). And save for a select few people I stopped giving Christmas gifts all together – a large part due to being a poor and struggling student for awhile, but mostly because I was tired of feeling obligated to give gifts in an increasingly showy one-ups-man kind of way.

Going all-out for Christmas decorations slowly declined in my family after my Grandfather died, and thus when I moved to Windsor I felt no desire to decorate my apartment. For one: I was travelling every year to visit family for the holiday. Two: I could care less about The Holiday That Shall Not Be Named. Three: Why should I waste the time/effort/money for something no one was going to see and that didn’t bother me one way or another if it existed. I happily spent 8 Christmas-free Decembers in my apartment.

At the end of last year I felt the change in the wind. Perhaps it wouldn’t be terrible to do a little decorating. I mean, I like Christmas lights … so even if I only string a few of them around a bookcase that could be enough to lift my spirits. Perhaps this change was spurred by my city hosting a Bright Lights festival and covering a large park (the one I got married in, actually) in thousands of Christmas lights.

Fast forward to the last few weeks … and there has definitely been a change. I still loathe the commercialization and pushy-pushiness of gift giving … but for the first time in a long time (perhaps since my Grandfather died) I feel excited for the holiday season. I want to light beautiful candles, and drink hot chocolate, and have a Christmas tree, and bake! Perhaps it’s the hopeful promise that new love can bring. Perhaps it’s finally having something with someone I didn’t before and thus changing my perspective on things. I think about wanting to start traditions, start doing holiday things together, make a more defining “us”.

So when idle hands found a store that had a great deal on the exact kind of (fake) tree I wanted we jumped at the chance and got it. We assembled it that night to give Owl time to adjust to having the tree there (we weren’t sure how she would do). Over last weekend we spent time picking out decorations and decorating our tree. During our decorating we even watched holiday specials which were favourites of Boyfriend that I have long-said I hated and … didn’t actually mind while we were working. We plugged in the lights and voila! A fully decorated Christmas now stands in our apartment.

Each night when I come home after work the first thing I smell is a pine candle burning, filling the room with that earthy scent. Next, I see our tree, all lit up and shining brightly. There is a sense of warmth and wonder to come home to this, and maybe I didn’t know what I was missing. I feel my heart swell to sit on our couch and take in the scene. Yes, I realize that probably sounds a tad dramatic, but it helps me understand how much I’ve missed out on being stubborn and set in my ways. I don’t have regrets, but maybe a new appreciation for not closing my heart and mind off and giving things a whirl because it makes me happy.

I won’t say that being with Boyfriend or having him move in changed me (I mean, it did, but not in that overtly dramatic sense). What it did was open my eyes a lot more, forced me to take a harder look at myself and my choices (which, of course, I was already doing post-separation/divorce). Closing myself off to the holiday spirit was a choice I don’t regret making (especially when Wasband added a third December birthday to my list), but through this year I’ve realized a lot of things I was holding on to were only because I was scared of what would happen when I let those beliefs go. Branching out hasn’t always worked, but this year I’ve been pleasantly surprised with every chance and shot-in-the-dark I took that turned out to change me for the better, even if the risk initially failed. I am evolving as a person, changing into a new version of myself that I am enjoying more and more each day. Jenn Version 3.0.

So now I look forward to spending the next few weeks curled up on the couch watching Christmas specials and movies, drinking our favourite hot chocolates or teas … and probably turning off the shows because hockey is on, and we’re kind of die-hard fans. I like the coloured lights on my tree, the smell of a pine candle and whatever I’m baking in the oven. Sometime next week Boyfriend and I will go to Bright Lights and take a bunch of cheesy dumb pictures … and I’m so looking forward to it. My life isn’t perfect but right now I am very content.

~ J

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