Retro Christmas

I have to confess I love old things. It doesn’t matter whether they’re broken, battered or bruised, whether they’re from the 40s, 50s or 60s. Old is good. A piece of tattered lace, a vintage lamp, a sepia-toned photo—almost anything old-fashioned can capture my heart. Especially at Christmas time.

To most people an old-fashioned Christmas means hot cocoa and sugar cookies, Bing Crosby carols and a crackling fire. Nearly everyone has a Christmas memory of opening presents beneath a 7-foot evergreen tree that smells like heaven, while the landscape outside disappears beneath a blanket of fresh snow.

Not me.

The funny thing is I didn’t realize how different my Christmas memories were until I ran into them, head on. I was in a contemporary urban store—one of those trendy California shops that cater to a young, hip crowd—hunting for just the right gift for my twenty-something son, when I saw “it.”

Christmas personified: a spiky silver tree, as fake as they come, with maybe 12 branches total, all made of glittering tinsel. On the floor spun the magic color wheel, a spotlight that shined on the little tree, changing it from yellow to red to blue. And in between the primary colors flickered a million prismatic shades, melting into one another, tumbling over one other, each eager for a split-second moment to transform the world. Saffron changed to scarlet, vermilion to indigo, lavender to tangerine.

Like a deer in headlights, I froze. Lump in my throat. My eyes misting. Suddenly I was ten years old again, sitting on the floor in the apartment I shared with my mom and my sister, staring at our Christmas tree, mesmerized. Watching as the tree changed from emerald to aquamarine while all the other lights were turned down to a mere whisper. Outside an Illinois winter wind howled and icicles dripped from the eaves. Glassy stairways were treacherous and snow flurries spiraled through busy streets—an ever-changing paisley pattern of white on white.

But inside my living room was a drowsy, comforting heat, while in one corner stood all of the magic of Christmas: a tree that was never the same color longer than a heartbeat, surrounded by glittering packages filled with untold promise. Anything could be inside those boxes. A doll, a book, a sweater. A record, a hat, a necklace. The tree was a portal to another world, a land where colors danced and chased one another, where all the hopes and dreams of a year could be answered in an evening. In a moment.

In a fraction of a second, somewhere between amber and honey.

I was startled back to reality when I saw two teenagers staring at my tree, oohing and aaahing and giggling because it was so different. It was retro-chic. I think they liked it because it represented everything that Christmas wasn’t—this tree didn’t have prickly needles or sticky sap, it didn’t embody the fragrance of an evergreen forest at dusk.

What they didn’t realize—what very few people could realize—was what this “Charlie Brown” silver tinsel tree really did represent.

All the hopes and dreams of a ten-year-old girl’s Christmas.



mental mosaic said...

Awwww... sweet post! I love anything silvery and sparkly.

Your post reminds me of a story my dad tells about how some young carpenters were in awe of his wooden measuring tape. They were exclaiming over it and saying things like, 'Wow, I've never seen one of these!' and 'Where'd you get this antique?' He said it was startling because it was simply something he'd used for 50 years and to him it wasn't any more unique than a hammer or nail.

I found you via the Carnival of Creativity, by the way. :)

Merrie Destefano said...

Thanks so much for stopping by! And you visited the Carnival of Creativity, too. You get ten points!!

I love your story about the "antique" measuring tape. I have been buying a lot of vintage jewelry on eBay lately. The funny thing is, it's all the kind of stuff that I wore when I was a teenager. Ha! I guess I'm vintage too!