By Maddie Sokoloski
A few weeks ago, my sister Lily and I put up our Christmas decorations. This year, due to the fact that we live in a new house, we had to do things a bit differently. Our old tree was too tall to fit under our shorter ceilings so we bought a new, smaller Christmas tree. We hung over a hundred matching gold and silver ornaments, newly bought. My mom climbed a ladder to place a brand new silver star tree topper with rotating disco lights. The ceiling was splashed with red, blue and green lights, spinning and whirling in some pattern I couldn’t follow. The tree is organized, beautiful, uniform, everything I always wanted a tree to be and I’m still not sure about it. It’s all as new as the house we live in. This isn’t the tree I’m used to.
A few days after the tree was put up, we broke out the rest of the decorations, including the box of sentimental, kiddy ornaments that didn’t match the gold and silver theme of the tree. To accommodate for this and use the extra decorations, a second tree, the scraggly one we put on the porch of our old house, was set up in a different room. On it, we hung all the ornaments that didn’t match the gold ones. Aside from the silly, homemade crafts that were slowly falling apart and the few bits and pieces that belonged to my dad, we hung up every one until the artificial branches drooped with the weight. All five of my mom’s nativity scenes were scattered throughout the house. We strung garland along the rail by the steps and accented it with some big red bows. We hung five of our six stockings on a shelf across from the gold tree because they looked better there than on the mantle.
Five stockings. Just like our house and our Christmas tree, this was different too. Even though my parents split up some time last year, we still had Christmas together in our old house. This year though, my mother bought a new house. The garlands and bows are on a new railing; our fake tree is color coordinated in a way my dad would never have appreciated in the old house. All the decorations are beautiful and I still can’t help but feel something is missing.
“I don’t believe in Christmas,” my dad told me when I asked him what he wanted. I still harbored every intention to buy him a gift anyway. As opposed to my mom’s house, my dad’s apartment still looks exactly the same in December as it did in August. Even though he took us shopping to buy gifts for our mom, we have no tree or garland or big red bows. To my dad, Christmas was always about family. It was about going to tree farms to purchase the perfect tree then taking it home and coating it in a thick layer of ornaments, each laden with memory. Now that it’s just the two of us in our two-bedroom apartment (with the occasional weekend visit from my siblings), there’s no need to hang stockings or string lights. There’s no point in rushing out to buy a tree when no one’s going to appreciate it. Without family, there’s no reason for Christmas in the apartment.
Christmas is more different than I ever imagined it could be. At the new house, there is no balcony overlooking the bottom floor for my sisters, brother, and I to look over and stare at our tree on Christmas morning. There’s much less space to decorate at my mom’s and nothing to decorate with at my dad’s. As much as I don’t want to admit it, our new Christmas makes me sad. I knew Christmas would be different when my parents split up but it’ll be a challenge forming new traditions, trying to uphold the old ones with one less person, holding onto old memories with nothing to reinforce them every year, getting to spend time with both parents during Christmas break. I assumed I’d have two trees this year. I didn’t know they’d both be in the same house. But it just means I’ll be forging new holiday memories by both the light of our two Christmas trees and the glow of the regular old lights in my dad’s apartment.
Maddie Sokoloski is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram