No one likes their Christmas trees. But don’t underestimate the power of a mall window

I’m sure as hell glad they brought the windows back. Holiday windows should be welcomed even more than office Christmas parties. Holidays should be shrouded in itchy phrases about hope and magic. Holidays should be treated as indispensable. Shopping malls should have windows as a sunny patch during a stormy winter. Shopping malls should have soft melodies and, one could imagine, luxurious suntan bikinis dangling from light posts, like so many pencil skirts.

This is not a particularly original or happy thought. One could very well write my own etiquette guidelines for holiday displays, particularly given my own first family of imprinted holiday displays. Holidays were declared. Holidays were celebrated. Holidays would be spoiled and, somehow, loved and acknowledged.

What could possibly go wrong?

As soon as my mother, father, brother and I started our holiday displays, my precocious two-year-old sister, Kate, snatched at and pulled out Santa, stuffing him in our cardboard Santa Bubble Tube, like a surprise infant. Kate presented me with a special ornament named, “Kate’s Christmas Letters,” a friendly act I later read as something naughty and subversive.

Then our tiny little witch took to the cookie shelf and began baking holiday cookies on my bookcase, which, because it was a children’s book, would by that time be full of blackberries, red, blueberries, and golden brown frosting.

I looked at the fresh fruits, the aromatic orange blossoms, the crisp green papayas, the small green bowls of sugar cookies and saffron basil and sucked on my toothpick. Was this the public joy I dreamed of? I raised my hand. “What about Carol,” I called, gesturing toward my sister. Carol is a tall girl, maybe six feet, with curls. She stood on my bookcase, then lowered herself down, before I could stop her, into the many sugar cookies that were baking in her black stocking. I hate to admit that this harried snap of a moment, at the slightest hint of a doubt, was a gift I had given her when she was an infant.

I probably would have done the same thing with my mother, I thought. I was sure we’d both love what I did and could happily return for even more.

But, oh, what a difference a few generations make. I looked closely at the motherless child (then five) and thought more about the kind of woman I’d grown to be.

Are Christmas trees the real reason for the season? Here’s a poll

Later, at a party at the apartment of the fellow writer who wrote this column, I saw the young boys’ eyes focused on the cakes, the nuts, the toys. They perked when my own eyes eyed things with enjoyment. Then they found their paths forward and began testing the barriers on our paths, as she had. “Is that a tree in there?” they wanted to know, beaming.

These are not your grandmother’s kids. I think that there is good reason to believe they may be underestimating themselves, and they may be underestimating the parenting they want. They are already the models for a new generation, the ones they will replace.

As for me, I love my tree. I love the presents I give my children. And I am thrilled that some people take to their windows in the way that an enormous inflatable Noah’s Ark merges into the space of a 40-foot-tall tree to many a homeowner.

An entire season – most of it spent at work – may leave some sort of empty nest feeling.

All I know is that my holiday windows are almost back, and they are again challenging me to do more.

Leave a Comment