A Christmas Tree Puzzle

Round and around we went. Move the couch here, this chair there, take out the hand-built credenza, step back and survey ... and no. Switch chairs, reposition record player console, measure ... and no. Put the couch and credenza back. No. Shake head. Try not to despair. Move everything again. No. Hold back the impending meltdown. Realize that I'm not the only one about to have one ...

My living room has exactly one joy sparking arrangement, a perfect fusion of the upholstered pieces, the rugs, and the coffee table and other wood pieces. It took 15 years(!) to find the right pieces for this space and to learn where they should go. The house kept trying to tell us, but we weren't listening. Now the focus is on the fireplace and we've even carved out what feels like a small entry way in a California bungalow whose front door opens directly into the living room.

The feel of this room is highly important to me. The furniture placement needs to create a cozy space that is aesthetically pleasing, but more than than, a space the welcomes us in. I want it to be place that we want to be. Last November I breathed a huge sigh of contentment when we acquired the final piece of the furniture puzzle and added a rug to create a space within a space. Everything clicked!

Last Christmas we put up a small vintage aluminum tree with simple ball ornaments plus a color changing light and called it good. It was simple to set up and take down again, and it fit the space and was a fun throwback to the Christmas trees of my youth.

But several times this year I heard (from one child in particular) that a green tree would be preferred this year, one that could hold the many special ornaments we've collected over the years. I wanted to put my foot down and say that the simple aluminum tree would suffice, but underneath his request I could hear so much more.

I heard his longing for the tree to look like it had for the first 17 Christmases of his life (even if he didn't remember all of them).

I heard his trepidation about growing up and eventually leaving our home.

I heard his desire to revisit his childhood with the ornaments that represent part of our family story.

All the furniture moving was an attempt to make space for a large, decidedly artificial Christmas tree. We wrangled with space and chairs and the needs of our Christmas guests. It wasn't working. I was being quite rigid in what I wanted, which was for it to look and feel beautiful while also seating our expected guests. There was one chair that just wasn't working, no matter how we moved things, and I was loathe to let it go. We were both getting frustrated.

Finally, I told him to put the chair that was causing all of the problems in his room. His face turned to sunshine. We moved all of the furniture back where it had started, and decided that minus the chair and the record cabinet, a large tree would fit.

Come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we might not have enough seating, but we'll make do. We'll pull over the dining chairs, push back the couch, and a few of us may end up on the floor (not a problem). Until then, I'll try to remember that living in the house is the most important thing, and that one chair should never break us.


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