I love a real Christmas tree. The fragrance, the prickly boughs, the bringing-it-in-the-door in a shower of needles and attempting to screw it into the tree stand so that it is at least passably straight. Adjusting so the inevitable patchy side faces the wall. Decorating it. And oh, the fragrance!
I love my husband, too, of course. And, my husband is allergic to real Christmas trees. That was one of those things revealed fairly early on in the relationship—a terrible secret to be unearthed and considered as a possible deal-breaker. I may never have a real Christmas tree again. OK, I can deal. We’re actually not big celebrators of Christmas anyhow. It’s more the solstice—the lighting up of the longest nights of the year and rejoicing that the wheel of the year is turning toward lengthening days (and gardening season) again.
I have very few allergies, and for that I’m extremely grateful. My mother suffers from a lot of them—most anything that has a strong/perfume-y fragrance, plus a number of other substances as well. I joke that I grew up in a scent-sory deprived household. I remember as young kids, out exploring the fields and wetlands in our little town (fields and wetlands that no longer exist, I’m sad to say), my brother and I were returning from an afternoon of catching frogs, jousting with milkweed stalks, eating wild berries, and assorted other free-range adventures, and we decided to bring back a big bouquet of flowers to make mom’s day.
After selecting the biggest, fluffiest heads of goldenrod and arranging them “attractively” into what was basically a big yellow club of allergens, we marched home thinking how pleased mom would be at her adorable (and muddy, and burdock-coated) offspring. What happened when we got home is not as clear in my mind as our glorious intentions, but I don’t think the bouquet ever made it in the door after mom spotted us coming down the road with our gift. Hey, at least it wasn’t a
snake…nevermind—we don’t say that word in front of mom, either. 😉
A couple of participants in our Thanksgiving feast share an allergy to all members of the onion family. John’s sister is one of them, and it has been an interesting challenge to cook when she visits—being so used to starting every savory recipe with an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, and/or a whole leek. I like these kind of challenges, though, and it’s a much better option to eat in anyhow—can you imagine trying to go out to a restaurant with that kind of allergy? Every spice blend and condiment poses the threat of closing your throat and sending you to the hospital. You can ask for no onion or garlic, but you take your chances on the kitchen staff actually reading the labels for anything they’re not preparing from scratch (sadly, much of the menu in most places these days). Ann has also become quite creative at enhancing flavor in her own recipes, and her green chili-blue cornbread dressing is one of my favorite dishes alongside the turkey every year. I’ve decided to try my hand at making it for dinner tonight—but, yeah, I’ll probably put onion in mine.
Now that freezing temperatures have descended and the ground is covered with snow (though next week’s forecast looks potentially revealing), many allergy sufferers are breathing a sigh of relief—which is to say, they’re breathing normally. Aside from indoor issues like dust and pet dander, allergens are at a minimum. I am incredibly thankful that neither I nor John, nor any of our offspring are allergic to those, what with a laissez-faire approach to dusting, two cats, a dog, and tentative plans for a puppy.
The onset of winter means it’s coming up on the holidays, which means it’ll soon be time for the tree to go up. With John’s allergy, we’ve compromised with a fake tree—in fact, one of the most obviously fake trees money buy—the kind with pulsing, glowing, multi-colored fiber optic lights built right into the tips of the plastic branches. I think the thing might even spin or jiggle or do some crazy acrobatics. I’m sure it’s known by the State of California to cause cancer, blindness, and uncontrollable Barry Gibb impressions.
But it’s also a tree on which to hang the family ornaments, each with a story behind it. We can put presents underneath it for the cats to mangle, and it doesn’t require struggling with a separate string of lights, since they’re already built in. It also doesn’t make John sneeze, or give him headaches (except perhaps, if he were to stare too long at its pulsing colored needles).
On the front lawn, there’s a small spruce that I’ve strung with lights, and once I find a long enough extension cord, we’ll be able to enjoy its cheery twinkle from the warmth of the house, without fear of allergies or getting needles stuck in our socks. I could trim a few branches from the big spruces bordering the orchard and affix them to the deck railing as well. A wreath on an outside door would be safe.
With the question of holiday greenery settled, we can retire to the warmth of the house, lighting the pine-scented candles and relaxing in the glow of our artificial and allergy-free tree, addressing holiday cards and humming along to A Very Bee Gees Christmas.