Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Something's Missing

I am a real tree kind of girl.  Growing up in Maine in the 70's, we kids would pick out not one, but two trees with my dad, and he would wire, cut and drill, crafting the two trees into one densely-branched masterpiece.  One year, he and my mother even bought each of us kids smaller trees of our own for our bedrooms.  I loved lying under the tree, sucking on a piece of ribbon candy, and squinting to make the lights blur and twinkle.  As an adult, I love the tradition of finding a new ornament each year with my husband, and decorating the tree together with the Peanuts Christmas CD playing on the stereo.  

I understand the convenience of artificial trees, and I also know that cutting down trees just to haul them inside and let them die after a few weeks isn't exactly environmentally sound.  In fact, I'd been dreaming of the day when we'd have enough property to buy a potted tree every year and then plant them on our own land.  This year, however, reality has finally put the kibosh on that fantasy, at least the potted tree part; not the property part.

You see, over the last few years I have developed an allergy to evergreens.  Not just a sniffly-nose kind of allergy, but a full-blown headache, sneezing, wheezing, sick as a kid who has eaten too much ribbon candy kind of allergy.  I tried to deny it last year.  We purchased a lovely tree, brought it up the elevator of the old textile mill where we live (we're only on the island for 3 more weeks, then it's back to the mill), placed it in a pretty corner of the loft, and then I went to work on the lights, stringing them ever so carefully for maximum effect.  Within minutes my eyes were tearing, I was coughing and wheezing, and I knew then that that would be our last real tree.

I know I shouldn't mind.  I know that I should look at this as an opportunity to create spectacular alternatives to a traditional tree each year (I'm thinking of driftwood branches with white lights and island berries this year), and I do see it as just that: an opportunity.  I'll admit, though, that a piece of me--the piece that scoops up vintage ornaments at flea markets and antiques shops all year long--is feeling sorry for itself.  I will fill glass bowls and apothecary jars with my treasured ornaments; they will be lovely, but I'll miss the tree, especially the scent.  I went to Yankee Candle the other day thinking maybe an evergreen candle wouldn't be so bad.  It was worse.  Sigh.  

Maybe one year I'll end up with a pink artificial tree like the ones on the Charlie Brown special.  I've seen people totally rock that look.  I gotta tell you, though, that is so not me.  

Okay, enough whining.  Tomorrow I'll scavenge some truly cool pieces of driftwood.  Whatever I end up cobbling together won't be evergreen and it won't be artificial, but it will be squint-worthy.  


  1. Here's an image I saw today that I really admired - perhaps a charming and inventive solution to the allergy problem? http://suzi.se/blog/?p=1674

  2. I am kinda liking the driftwood tree myself.....I have been re-thinking our tree situation as my daughter has been told she is allergic to a variety of trees, also.

    Your memories of the tree decorating sound fun....and the antique ornaments in bowls sound awesome to me - that is exactly what I have been doing the last 6 years.

    Have a great day, Gigi...sending hugs your way! xxoo

  3. As you know, Gigi, we always have a 'real' Christmas tree. We have always had one and I can't change now. We all used to decorate the tree as a family when I was little. I loved it, even though we used to have a few arguments, the tree looked magical. It is one of my favourite parts of Christmas.....but, your situation is different. You can't possibly have one if it makes you feel that bad. I think that your idea of driftwood sounds lovely, and, I have to say that the artificial trees are so good nowadays, you can't tell the difference.
    I know that you will make everything look gorgeous and I'm sure that you won't miss the tree at all. Have a great time, decorating your home.
    P.S. I always try to buy a new ornament every year, too. XXXX

  4. driftwood, branches sounds a whole lot better than artificial snow trees.
    your memories make it all so special & I know that your memory of this years decorating will definitely be memorable.
    looking forward to seeing your creative tree ♥

  5. awww. I hear ya on the out of no where allergies. My mom used to put up a lil tree in my room when I was a little. It made me feel special too. Ya know I would love to know where to find one of those pink trees from the Peanuts. hehe. I think I might just have to spray paint a white one. =P

    Happy decorating!!

  6. I saw a beautiful pink tree at Michael's this week....and thought about it but then decided my brother would go off the deep end. LOL

    I understand allergies as I have them too. But a driftwood tree sounds so gorgeous

  7. Gigi,

    A driftwood tree sounds like a perfect solution. There are so many wonderful beachy elements you could incorperate into the display- sea glass, shells, etc.

    Get thee to the beach - girl!


  8. I'm so very sorry!! But hey, look at it as an opportunity for holiday creativity!!

  9. I know, me too. ; ( Sniffle, sniffle.
    Get that driftwood and create something good! ; )
    I send you love~

  10. Beautifully written post! I feel for you, because adult-onset allergies can be difficult to adjust to (unfortunately, I learned this the hard way), and the evergreen one carries so much emotional weight at the holidays. :(

    But I love that you're still intending to do it up in whatever way you can. You never know, you might just invent the next big decorating thing to save a few thousand trees next year!

  11. We had the real tree for years and years. We added a white artificial tree for a few years, just for me to play with. We had a live tree our first 4 years in this house, but now we travel for Christmas and the only way to have a tree is to have an artificial one. We like to enjoy it before we leave and not worry about it burning the house down while we are gone. It really isn't so bad. I do buy a live wreath for outside the house...it adds that touch of old fashioned Christmas. You might be able to pull that off.

  12. Oh hi there honey. That is really sad for you, but as you said it gets the imagination working on really cool alternatives. I love your idea.

    You gave me an idea, I gotta go plant a Christmas tree on our property. Oh maybe Mr DJ can do it...who am I kidding. Wonder how long they take to grow....

    I buy at least one new ornament each year too :o xxx

  13. Gigi,
    'Squint worthy' is the magic of Christmas, and I know it will fill your home and heart.


  14. Sorry to hear about your allergi, because I can totally relate to your feelings about a real Christmastree. When I was a child my parents, my brother and I always went to my grandfparents place to pick out a tree from their property to bring home. It was a nice thing to do togheter as a family.

    Unfortunately my grandparents passed away some years ago, and my parents have had a fake tree for the last couple of years. (My mother thougt there was so many bugs on a real tree and becide she thougt a fake one looked better because it is more "perfect")... I have to say that I do not agree on the last point - even though it looks nice it is not REAL.

    I would definately prefer a real one for my husband and my home - but as you say there is an enviromental issue to this also - which I have to admit that I have not tought about... For the time beeing I do not have to make a decidion for what tree to buy because my husband and I always go home to our parents place for Christmas so we do not buy a tree for our own home.

    Good luck whith your decoration! I am sure it is going to look nice no matter what you decide to do.

    (I am sorry about my bad english writing - but I guess you understand the message :-) )

  15. Such a shame but think of how fabulous the driftwood tree will look! Leigh

  16. Darn allergies.... but from one driftwood lover to another, I'm sure your new tree will be wonderful!
    Happy holidays,

  17. I believe you'll manage something extraordinary, Gigi. With your poet's soul I just know it will be so. Sorry about the allergies, I get them in the spring and there isn't anything that I hate more.

  18. my feeling is ...... as long as its squint-worthy.... it will be amazing! being a real tree fan myself i feel your pain... and i also am feeling the environmental ... i want to say guilt, but its just a matter of finding a worthy alternative

  19. A driftwood tree with string of white lights and glittery ornaments...that sounds very Christmas-y to me! I like the simplicity of such trees and would prefer such. We just put up our artificial tree, which we do years we travel to see my family for the holiday. I didn't have a real tree until I was an adult on my own. I was used to artificial trees, as growing up my sister had allergies to lots of things--including real Christmas trees. So I sympathize with your feeling, Gigi. I know however you decorate though it will be very soulful and festive, and that's all that really matters. :o) ((HUGS))

  20. look at all these comments! so many people sending you a hypoallergenic balsam fir love! a few things:

    1.although it's not alergies that are preventing me from having a real christmas tree this year (what with us living in the mojave desert and all) i'm with you on trying to find a creative solution. i'm thinking of finding a big dead joshua tree and decorating it with lights. can't wait to see the driftwood masterpiece.

    2. your loft sounds incredible. do you guys live in mass the rest of the year? where o where is this magical loft/studio space?!

    3. you're a doll. xoxo

  21. So sorry to hear of your allergies. I do know a lot of ppl who suffer from the same thing. Wouldn't be good in my business:))

    We've been playing the Peanut's Christmas cd since we've been open and I still love hearing it. Makes me feel like a kid!

  22. Ahh I love this post, and can so relate. I bought a fake one last year, that appears a little sparse and I've whined that it looks like a Charlie Brown tree. But now that I put presents under it this weekend, it appears much better. I was afraid because my co-worker's cat got sick from a real tree from the fire retardent. My little Sage, loves to chew so I was worried. However, this year it's the curly ribbon that is her own worst enemy. She eats it then throws it up. I've picked up bits of metallic red and gold the past few days and had to cut off all the bows!

  23. So sorry to hear about you allergies Gigi,
    There are great looking artificial trees on the market now, but i like your idea of the living tree very much...adore your vintage ornaments, they have the best warm-patina don't you agree...

  24. Your memories of the tree decorating sound fun

    Work From Home India

  25. Squintworthy....such a great word Gigi. Good luck with the driftwood, xv.

  26. I know of someone with this same allergy. Whatever you come up with for your holiday adornment will be lovely. Does this mean you will have Chrsitmas in Maine?

  27. I am certain that no matter what you used to decorate, even if you used tin cans, you would find a way to surround yourself with sparking, glittering beauty.
    You find the beauty everywhere you go, and you carry it within you...I know this because every so often (actually most often) it spills right out of you and delights all who are around you.


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