I’ve always had a thing for tacky fake Christmas trees. I know artificial-tree technology has come a long way in replicating the Christmas tree experience so that it doesn’t require water or allergy pills, but imitation evergreens don’t do it for me. I like the ridiculous ones that could never, under any circumstances, be mistaken for a real plant.

We’ve always had real Christmas trees in our family’s house, of course, because Maine is the Pine Tree State and they are usually pretty easy to get. Also, my mom has impeccable taste when it comes to things like fashion and interior decoration. She would never permit a teal plastic tree under her roof.

But this year, I have my own roof! I figured a live tree would never work in my 900-square-foot home, with the highest ceiling point being just over 6 feet and wall-to-wall carpeting in every room except the bathroom and kitchen. Also, last year, my boyfriend witnessed me incorrectly estimate the size of a tree relative to the size of the living room, which resulted in my purchasing a 9-foot pine tree for my mother’s 6-foot room. Not my finest hour. Besides, a real tree would provide an awful lot of opportunities for my cat and dog to get up to destructive mischief when they’re left at home all day. They’re usually pretty well behaved, but I don’t see the need to test them.

So I bought a 3-foot tree, bright turquoise, with white fairy lights already installed in it. It matches our teal carpeting, a feature of the house I hated at first but now seem to have developed Stockholm syndrome for. And then, of course, I realized I needed something to stand it on, so I ran out to the Wiscasset Antiques Mall.

One good thing about living in this area is that if you find yourself in need of an emergency antique shop, there’s liable to be one close at hand. I don’t know what it is about Vacationland that makes people want to buy antiques (is it because Maine is full of old people?), but it took me all of 10 minutes to find a gorgeous maple three-drawer nightstand that almost-sort-of matches the rest of my furniture, and eight of those minutes were spent driving to the store. Of course, it took me an hour to get out of the store, and all of the self-control I have learned over years of recovery to do it without buying anything else. I didn’t realize just how much I wanted a bejeweled statuette of a seal before I saw it. Now it’s all I can think about.

We only have one ornament on the tree. It’s a clear plastic Energizer Bunny ornament from 1992. I know it’s from 1992 because the date is emblazoned on the bunny’s drum. It’s the sort of tchotchke that probably came free with purchase. I found it in a drawer, still in its wrapper, when I first moved in. I put it right at the top. It matches the tree perfectly and, more importantly, it feels like I’m paying homage to the previous owner. She owned the house for 30 years and took good care of it; every time the furnace kicks on and makes the house cozy, I feel grateful for her fastidiousness.

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I’m also grateful for the fastidiousness of my boyfriend, Rory. Our house is always presentably neat and tidy, and it’s mostly because of him. He’s very much of the “a place for everything and everything in its place” school of thought, and I’m … not exactly a slob, but left to my own devices, I will leave non-food items scattered over countertops for days at a time. Living with Rory has made me a much neater person. Officially, it’s because I want to be respectful of our shared space. In reality, it’s because he’s got the saddest puppy eyes in the world.

Rory has been willing to make some compromises. For instance, there’s always a handful of dog toys scattered everywhere. When Janey needs herself a toy, she can’t wait for it to be fished out of a bin. She needs it right then and there. And I insist on throw blankets on every large piece of furniture, although I try to keep them folded.

I think this is what grown-up relationships are all about. Rory was surprisingly gung-ho about the teal tree, I think because it won’t scatter needles on the carpet and because the new nightstand (which is in the living room – does that make it a daystand?) is the perfect storage spot for my large and constantly growing scented candle collection. He also produced a string of multicolor twinkle lights from the depths of his closet (there are two in the house, we each have one) and I twirled it across the top part of my kitchen cabinets. I’m not sure how long I’m going to leave them up, but it will probably at least a week after anyone with good taste takes them down.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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