It started as a joke. It became an obsession.
The four of us, strolling through Portland’s Festival of the Trees, were enjoying and evaluating the dozens of Christmas trees decorated by the region’s largest corporations and most identifiable big businesses. The trees had themes. One was adorned in Disney paraphernalia, another in Barbie dolls. There was a tree depicting a Dickensian Christmas and one covered in forest animals, reflecting a “Walk in a Winter Wonderland.” Even the Portland Trailblazers sponsored a tree, its black and red ornaments and decorations reflecting the professional basketball team’s colors.
The Festival of the Trees was a fund-raiser to help the less fortunate enjoy the holiday season. Proceeds from ticket sales and the sale of the trees, bid on at the end of the weeklong display, bought food and gifts for needy families and individuals. The highest bid for each tree not only won the tree, but a team of decorators to set-up the fir in the winner’s home.
“Which was your favorite?” I asked as we aimed toward the exit.
“The Raggedy Ann and Andy tree,” Cindy said. “But I’ve always loved Raggedy Ann.”
“I liked the “Under the Sea” tree with all the fish,” Gary said. “I am a Pisces, after all.”
“The one with those ugly miniature Model-T cars. It was horrible,” announced Wendy. “How could anyone decorate a tree in black, metallic cars?” She laughed. “I loved it.” Wendy had always been the oppositional one, the one marching to a different drummer.
Oh, there was a tree adorned in drums.
“Which was your favorite?” Cindy asked me.
“I liked the one covered in oranges. Who would have thought a Florida citrus fruit or the color orange was an appropriate motif with which to decorate a Christmas tree in the Pacific Northwest?” I paused. “I think it would have looked better on a white or flocked tree, though.” I paused again. “You know what would look good on a white tree?” I asked.
“No,” Gary and Cindy said in unison.
Wendy was staring at a tree covered in coffee themed decorations. “Those strings of brown coffee beans don’t show up against that dark green. But the little red and green mugs and coffee makers are cute,” she said.
“Pink and purple. They’d look good on a white tree,” I continued. “If I were to have a tree, I’d cover it in pink and purple.”
Of course, the likelihood of my having a Christmas tree was minute. As a Jew, my childhood home was without Christmas trees. Instead, we had a menorah. It was a lovely symbol, a touching tradition, and it offered a warming glow. But it was no Christmas tree, with all its decorative possibilities.
When I moved out in my early twenties, the idea that I could have a tree never dawned on me. That was something goyim did, Mom had said. Besides, I didn’t have an attic-stashed treasure trove of decorations
But on the Christmas Eve following the Festival of the Trees, Cindy, Wendy, and Gary presented me with two boxes of simple glass ornaments, one full of pink orbs, the other purple. “For next year,” they chimed. And I had a starter kit.
That simple gift blossomed into a collection of ornaments ranging from pastel to hot pink and soft lavender to deep purple. But the ornaments were not limited to basic shimmering balls. There was a pink poodle, a purple Elvis, pink ballet shoes, a cluster of purple grapes, pink birds, a purple car, a pink Santa, a purple Star of David, and shiny shapes that defied description. Most were store-bought, but some were given. And some were found on the street, like the lavender hat veil, separated from a mystery chapeau and doomed to a gutter death until I spotted it seductively waving at me.
The collection grew and grew until I prepared to move to Ajijic. I can’t move all those delicate, breakable decorations to Mexico, I thought, so the glassy, glittery assortment of holiday whimsy was given to a second-hand store with the hopes it would be sold intact. But it wasn’t. The ornaments, to my disappointment, were sold individually.
I looked at the situation, however, through rose-colored glasses. I get to start a new collection of pink and purple ornaments in Mexico, I realized. And I have. There’s a pink gecko, purple dangling earrings handcrafted by a local artisan, and lavender starbursts. Does anyone know where I can get a shimmery, shiny purple taco? Perhaps stuffed with pink shrimp?