I'm a big believer in streamlining Christmas preparations. Spending hours baking and decorating dozens of Christmas cookies isn't my thing. I'm ready to give myself a medal when I've bought Christmas presents for everyone on my list – who cares whether they're beautifully wrapped or accented with rickrack? But last year, my husband and I realized that it's worth the extra effort to create the holiday experience our 6-year-old daughter, Coco, treasures most.
Coco loves Christmas trees. After she saw her first one when she was 1, she fell completely in love with its colorful lights and sparkling ornaments. In fact, she uttered her first word "that" while pointing and staring at the Christmas tree.
During the last few Decembers, my husband, Phil, and I have risen to find Coco sitting on the couch gazing at our lighted tree. (She began plugging it in by herself at age 3.)
Last December, Coco wrote in a school assignment that she dreamed of living in a house with two Christmas trees.
So a Christmas tree is a given at our house. However, Phil's and my yearly debate has been – real or artificial?
Phil, the artificial-tree proponent, feels that because we spend Christmas with my family in Ohio, we should simplify things at home and get an artificial tree.
That isn't an option for me. Never once in my childhood did we drag tree parts out of a box and put them together, branch by color-coded branch.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is selecting and decorating the tree, including strategically placing ornaments to fill in branchless holes. Has Phil never watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special?
We would have deliberated this indefinitely, but last year Coco settled the matter. We always let her choose our tree at the deli down the street. (What can I say? In Manhattan, delis sell Christmas trees.)
When Coco was younger, she selected tiny trees because to her they were towering. But every year, our daughter and our Christmas tree get a little taller.
When the holidays ended, we dragged the tree to our apartment building's trash room, and Coco asked if she could spend a couple of minutes alone with it.
When I asked what she said to the tree, Coco said that she told it best wishes and that she'd ask her mother if she could visit it before school the next morning.
The next day, Coco and I stopped by the trash room, where Coco gave the tree a quick hug before walking bravely to school.
Who knows if she would have had the same affection for an artificial tree?
Once again, we'll be in Ohio celebrating Christmas with my family. Maybe it makes sense to get an artificial tree. But a child's love affair with a live one trumped both Phil's practicality and my streamlining. So it won't be long before we head to the deli once again. It's time for our daughter to pick out the perfect tree.