We bought our Christmas tree today. We always like to buy the ones that are a little quirky—the ones that maybe no one else would want. We give them names, too. This year, for some reason, the tree is named Greg. We hope he’ll be happy here.

Greg’s not for everybody. Some people like perfect trees. Trees that are symmetrically shaped. Evenly lit. Uniformly trimmed. They take great pride in them, and they should. Those trees are showpieces. Part of an elegant décor.

Our tree? Is a scrapbook. A riotous celebration.

The lights aren’t one color or shape. We like a cacophony of color that blinks and changes, lights whose halos blur into one another, making our ornamental mementos shine with incandescent rainbows. The angel that tops Greg looks like a Cabbage Patch doll. I made her one year, when I had more cardboard and felt than I had money.

I look at Greg’s branches and I see our family history. The ornament labeled “Buffy,” the childhood nickname that I once hated but that now makes me think about my mother. The Snoopy ornament that is clad in a ghutra that reminds my husband of his childhood in Saudi Arabia. There are bells, both from our wedding and the honeymoon we spent in the United Kingdom. There is the clay bear with the protruding belly marked with a question mark that we bought for the last tree that we had before we became parents. There are two “Baby’s First Christmas” stars, one for each of our beloved boyos. There are stuffed cats for pets long lost to the rainbow bridge, and television characters from shows now off the air. There are spaceships for our geeky sides, granny squares crocheted by which aunt we can’t remember, and decades old fragile blown glass bulbs that belonged to my Nana. Greg is stuffed with ornaments—almost overflowing—because we don’t want any of them to feel left out so every one must find a place, even if it means a branch drooping from the weight of three.

I’ve never been a home decorator, though I admire them. I used to think that if I tried hard enough I would have a home that people would swoon over. Envy. Now, in the middle of my life, I realize that that was never really what I wanted at all. My house is a glorious mess of photos and tchotchkes, souvenirs and hand-me-downs. My house, year round, is what Greg is now. A living, almost breathing, memory book of a place. Full of constant reminders of the foundation I have built my life upon. My house, like Greg, is my heart on display. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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