Since my mother was a perfectionist and we weren’t rich, we often bought trees that were less than full
and almost never symmetrical. My mother would study the tree, decide which side should be the front
and which the back, and then begin her instructions to my cantankerous father (who fought her all the
way, but for increasingly shorter amounts of time as the years progressed). She would insist that he saw
a tree branch from the back of the tree and nail it into the offending gap on the front. Since he was not
a perfectionist, masking tape would sometimes have to be employed to help keep it in place. As a
result, the lights and bulbs and tinsel and icicles all had to be placed strategically to cover masking tape,
nails, and any remaining bare spots that the poor tree might suffer. In the end, if you squinted, we had
a pretty good-looking tree, especially if you let your eyes travel quickly to the bottom, where delicate
figurines of Mary, Joseph and Jesus were placed in a loving nativity scene, lit with a small blue bulb.
We all sighed with relief when Mom was satisfied, and thus we could finally relax and enjoy the
holiday: Christmas carols, wrapping presents, going to church late on Christmas Eve, and snacking
afterward on hot chocolate, toast, and cookies. The four children would then be sent off to bed so
Santa Claus could make his appearance.
Doug and I have our own Christmas traditions, and strangely enough, they still involve a search for
perfection: an ideal world, where everyone is happy; where musicians and carolers perform heavenly
music all day long; where children from different countries dance joyfully in a circle; where sheep look
skyward for the sound of angels singing; where a smiling Santa rides in an ornate Victorian sleigh; where
couples walk serenely in the snow; where peace and kindness are visible on the faces of every single
person and animal; where the world is gently lit with tiny colored bulbs.
This is the world atop our fireplace mantel, the world called Christmas Village, the world we re-create
every year on December first. This Village is the background for the Christmas movies we watch: The
Bishop’s Wife, Christmas in Connecticut, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Shop around the
Corner, The Santa Clause, and numerous versions of The Christmas Carol, our favorite Christmas story.
Several times every December, we take Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from hard-heartedness to lightness
and joy with Alastair Sim, Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, and Albert Finney (in the musical version
called Scrooge). These are the movies that remind us of the true message of Christmas, the stories that
help us imagine a more perfect world.
And as for our own Christmas trees? I have to admit that we still buy fresh ones, and we tend to seek
out the scruffy, the gnarled and the asymmetrical, embracing them as perfectly beautiful, just the way
Copyright © 2015 by Elyse Douglas
Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse’s mother was a painter and her father a textile consultant. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age, and graduated with a degree in English Literature. Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers and avid readers. His great grandfather lived to be a 134 years old, and was the oldest man in the world when he died in 1922.
Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include: The Other Side of Summer, Christmas for Juliet,Wanting Rita, The Christmas Diary, The Christmas Bridge and The Summer Diary. They live in New York City.