Separating Branches

My roommates and I decorated for Christmas last night. It’s true, we wouldn’t be here for much longer—probably a week more at the most for exams—but that didn’t stop us from getting in the Christmas spirit and making the most of the holiday season until then.

I came home to a pine tree scented aroma flooding the house. Pine tree scented candles were lit on the coffee tables. Three stockings, one for each of us and a little one for the dog, were hanging on the wall. The staircase leading from our living room to our upstairs was wrapped in white Christmas lights. Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” sounded from the iPod player hooked up by the kitchen table. And Jill sat at the kitchen counter, diligently creating a very much complicated gingerbread house. My other roommate, Olivia, was behind her pulling out two fresh trays of gingerbread and chocolate chip cookies from the oven.

I knew I had to contribute in some way, and I wanted to contribute. But I realized that everything was pretty much done. I asked, anyway, and Liv turned around and told me that my job was to put up the Christmas tree.

I came back down from upstairs carrying a rather large cardboard box, almost as big as me, which held the tree. I opened the box and dumped the tree parts on the floor and began tinkering with the three separate parts, putting them together and then separating the branches. As I was separating, Liv came over and started lining the tree from the top, the part that I hadn’t touched yet, with lights. I quickly had to tell her to back off—you can’t string a tree without separating the branches first. I know this because I decorated the Christmas tree every year since I was little…

I looked forward to Christmas every year as a kid for obvious reasons—presents, holidays, friends, family, food, a few days off from school. But every year I most looked forward to the Christmas tree.

I know that most kids probably look forward to the tree, but with my family, the tree was always a surprise, and that’s because we always had a different one. I always looked forward to seeing what kind of tree my mom would be in the mood for this year, whether it was a real one, a fake white one, a fake green one, or a fake green tree with snow on the branches. Just most recently in the past few years, we’ve had a silver tree with blue snowflakes and Christmas balls—just blue. Of course, all different shades of blue, but blue nonetheless. And it was always in our living room, but always somewhere different. Sometimes it was by the front window, or we’d move it to the right corner of the room. Sometimes it’d be by the fireplace, and sometimes it’d be at the back left of the room.

But regardless of what it looked liked or where it was, it was always my special job to help my dad with the tree. If it was a fake tree, my first job was to separate all the little branches. After my dad put the lights up, it was time to decorate.

Decorations also changed every year. Each year my mom always tried to get us to do a specific theme, whether it was red balls and red bows or all white ornaments or all different shades of green decorations so that the colors played off the green of the tree or multicolored lights to hide behind the ornaments or white lights to showcase them.

But, much like the outside decorations, my mom let us kids win out, and I’d always end up putting up the Disney ornaments we had for the tree. We had hundreds of Disney ornaments, probably two of each character. I would put four Minnie Mouse ornaments on the tree if I could have without my mom knowing, and I’m sure I accomplished that at some point.

But the tree always meant something to me because it was always my creation. I helped put it together, and then when I was finally finished, I got to stand back and marvel at my work. That was the best part.

So this year, at school, I decided to decorate with red and silver ornaments dangling behind a backdrop of white lights. I even put a silver star at the top. My roommates were impressed, and when I was finished, all three of us stood back and marveled at my work. Then we marveled at our work. Our house looked like the North Pole.

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