I’ve always had a very complicated relationship with Christmas. Of course, as a kid, I would get excited at the prospect of waking up to gifts. But it was fairly common for my parents to tell my sister and I to adjust our expectations because there was never a lot of money. One year, my mom and I stopped at a small Christmas tree stand in order to “just look.” If we bought a tree, it was always the type my mom referred to as the Charlie Brown variety, meaning we’d find the smallest, saddest tree on the lot that was hopefully within our budget. There was an older woman working there and soon after walking in, she complimented my mother on her coat, a thrift store wool garment she’d cleaned until it looked brand new. This particular coat was a beautiful shade of emerald green, it wasn’t surprising it had caught the woman’s eye. Ten minutes later, we were walking out with a beautiful Christmas tree and without my mom’s emerald green wool coat because she had traded it for the tree. I often think about that wool coat and whether it was worth it for a small bit of Christmas tree magic.
If one were to ask Natalie, the main character in my book A Poinsettia Paradise Christmas, she would say definitely not. After a few weeks, the tree would be dead and then you’d have no tree and no wool coat. She’s a character who’s been shaped by my realist, cynical side, a person who doesn’t understand the point of being sentimental about things. It’s unfortunate then to find herself working in a sentimental town like Placerville, a place that holds tightly onto its historical roots, and surrounded by the most sentimental of all people. Perhaps some people would agree with her. Many things feel so fleeting that you sometimes wonder what’s the whole point. It’s easy to get sucked into a hopeless rut, where you’re struggling to find something that lasts.
But maybe that’s the whole point of being sentimental, especially during the holidays. We grab and hold onto things because familiarity brings comfort. And even if we predictably make sugar cookies every holiday season, it’s something we look forward to because it reminds us of all the times we’ve made sugar cookies before and the memories connected to it. It’s not about the cookies themselves but the comfort the task brings to us in its familiarity, giving us something we can depend on.
These are the lessons Natalie learns. Christmas and trees and ornaments may not be important to her, but the association to certain people, like to her love interest Mason, is what creates happiness and significance for her. This is a type of sentimentality she can live with. It’s not about the exciting parts of the holiday that we build up in our head, but rather the smaller things and memories with the people we love. This is what makes the season special.
All these years later, I have no idea what gifts I found under that beautiful Christmas tree that year, but I do remember going to that lot with my mother, her sacrifice, and that bright green wool coat—all to bring us a little bit of Christmas magic.
About the Author.
Janine Amesta is a California girl who now lives in the high desert of Oregon with her husband and their cat, Hitchcock. She studied screenwriting in college, but her moody thrillers always had way too much flirty banter. She’s a master at jigsaw puzzles, skilled at embroidery, and critiques bad movies on Twitter.