Let’s look at the underbelly of those perfect holiday photos.
By Dulce Zamora
One night, I asked my husband Noel if he wanted to come with me to the nursery to get a fresh Christmas tree. (It’s one of the ways we can get a noble fir in Singapore.) He said he had too much work to do.
The next morning, after we walked the kids to school, I told him I was on my way to get the tree.
“You’re getting a tree?” he asked, visibly irritated. “Why are you getting one?”
“I told you last night,” I said.
“I didn’t hear you say ‘tree’,” he said. “I thought you were just getting a wreath. We’ve never gotten a live tree in Singapore.”
“Yes, we have!” I said, incredulous that he didn’t remember the three evergreens we had gotten in the last decade.
“Those are not grown in Singapore,” he said. “They’re not sustainable. They come from a long way and are expensive.”
“They’re not –” I began to say, but he interrupted me.
“Do you know how much it is to go to Hawaii?” he huffed. (At the time, we were considering a trip to the islands to meet my side of the family.)
“Well, do you know how much time it is to make up a tree?” I retorted.
Noel had a work conference call to take, and I had errands to run, so we didn’t talk for a half day. I felt indignant. Why did I have to explain why I wanted a Christmas tree? Was he accusing me of being a reckless spender? Did he suggest I didn’t care about the environment?
I had already done my research. I knew the cost of a live tree here was comparable to the cost in Northern California (where we lived before we moved back to Singapore last year), even with delivery and disposal charges. And, regarding the effect on the environment, I had read various reviews and determined that natural and artificial trees have similar impact. Live Christmas trees in Singapore are shipped from Europe or the United States. Plastic trees have a greater carbon footprint, though, than grown ones. I didn’t feel like going through all that with Noel. Plus, I didn’t want to remember our argument every time I looked at the tree.
It struck me. In the last couple of years, Noel had been out of the country on business or with family matters in the weeks leading up to the holidays. He wasn’t around to make the initial decorating decisions. I always took care of that. Part of me wanted to shout: ‘Back off! This is my jurisdiction!’ But I also did not want all of the housekeeping and childcare stuff to automatically fall on me (though Noel has always been great about pitching in). So, I put aside my pride and disappointment, and decided on a more collaborative approach. I explained my intentions the next time we were alone.
“It takes a lot of time and energy to put together a creative Christmas tree,” I began, pointing to the handcrafted holiday ornamentation that the kids and I always put together every year. Last year, we constructed a tree made out of books. Other years, we’ve used construction paper, glittered foam, bookshelves, or fabric to make the tree shape.
“This year, I was hoping to cheat a little, make it easy by getting a tree,” I said to Noel. “It would give me more time to write and to enjoy the holidays instead of stressing to get it all done. The girls and I have always made homemade decorations and gifts, which has saved us a lot of money over the years. We will still craft our own presents, but this year, we were hoping to get a fresh tree.”
“Besides,” I continued. “I was getting a little homesick. So I thought the fresh tree would be nice.”
Noel paused, then said: “My issue wasn’t with the tree, it’s with the lack of discussion. You already made the decision to do buy it. I didn’t have a say in it.”
“The tree is and has always been open for discussion,” I said. “Just say you want to talk about it. No need to go into other stuff.”
He sighed, and said, “Okay, if you really want to, we can get a tree.”
“It’s alright,” I said. “I changed my mind. How about if we get something potted, then we can still keep it after the holidays?”
He agreed. I went to the nursery, checked out the plants, and texted the options to Noel. We agreed on a bonsai tree.
When I took it home, Noel put up all the lights and helped me set up the silk fabric and tulle. The girls and I decorated the bonsai. During this time, our family trip to Hawaii fell through. The kids and I were crushed. So Noel suggested we all spend the holidays in California. We were overcome with joy.
This is just one story of many behind many of heartwarming photos. If we were judged by appearances alone, it would look like we have a charmed life, full of love, adventure, and beauty. That is true. But it is also true that we also have many tears, fights, mishaps, and times when it feels like we can’t do anything right. It’s in those times that it helps to recall that we also have love, adventure and beauty in our lives. Maybe that’s the real value of picture-perfect photos — to remind us of our blessings, and to see the perfection in our imperfection.
© 2019 Windswept Wildflower
Storms make deeper roots.Dolly Parton