Tim walked into the living room where his future in-laws were decorating their Christmas tree. Without looking, he quipped, “You missed a spot.” The family froze and turned to inspect the tree, seeking the flaw in their creation. There was none. Tim was a jerk.
“Where?” they demanded.
“Uh. Over there,” he vaguely gestured and realized these people were serious about their tree.
They had chosen a fuzzy-looking Douglas Fir with soft needles providing a full, gap-free exterior to start their enhancements. It was smoothly conical with no stray branches or needles surging beyond the overall exterior lines. The height reached nine inches shy of the ceiling which allowed exactly enough room for the star on top.
The tree had a prominent place in the formal living room. A room he knew was rarely used at all. The furniture in here was showroom quality. Much too nice for anyone to flop on for an afternoon nap and the cushions a bit stiff from lack of use. The family spent more time down the hall in the den. Here, the tree could be viewed out the front windows from the street.
All the decorations were red and white. White pinpoint lights had been carefully strung and gently turned outwards to maximize their illuminating effects. There was no tension on the cords to pull a limb or cluster of needles into place like at his family’s house. Here the tree received caring attention with the placement of each item.
Ornaments were evenly spaced across the green background in a careful pattern that suggested a netted template had been used. There were only four different types of ornaments: red ribbons, white balls, white birds, and white icicles. All were of similar size and shade. Each had been cleaned and inspected before being entrusted to a hanging point. Red ribbons were new this year and represented a daring change from almost two decades of tradition. The effect was beautiful and yet profoundly different from Tim’s family tree.
He wondered where the children’s contributions factored in the tree. Where were the “Baby’s first Christmas” ornaments, the plaster hand prints, the felt and ribbon horse head crafts? All the little treasured mementos that festooned his family tree seemed to have no place here. If he married into this family, what would their own tree tradition become? He felt sure Han Solo and Chewbacca on a string would never be allowed.
“Where did we miss something?” his future mother-in-law demanded.
Tim broke from his reflections and replied, “Sorry. I was mistaken. The red ribbon on the left edge seemed turned a bit to me. It’s fine.”