Keeping it far from conventional

The holiday season is marked by a variety of events. Wiltonians, young and old, will enviously eye plates of cookies set out for Saint Nick, congregate to pray around flickering menorahs and debate the annual task of giving “Secret Santa” a nondenominational alias. Many families will also engage in my favorite tradition, trimming the fine piece of greenery known as the Christmas tree.

Over the years I have been astounded by the elegance and beauty with which many families decorate their trees. The soaring, yet still pleasingly plump arbors are laden with color-coded ornaments, perfectly arranged to highlight the simple, but refined white lights wrapped daintily around the layers of branches, giving off an effervescent glow indicative of the peace and joy many equate with the holidays.

However, the tree occupying the corner space in my living room is uniform only in its consistency of chaos. Its trimmings range in color, size and general aesthetic, amalgamating to create a visual representation of my family, and all of our quirks.

Let’s begin with the plastic duo who take a break from occupying the Millennium Falcon for a few weeks every year, to patiently freeze in action poses amidst our tree’s pines. None other then Luke and Leia Skywalker guard our tree’s precious needles, proclaiming my family’s nerdiness to any fixating close to notice the iconic light saber and doubly-bunned hair style.

From there we can move 360 degrees around our colorful shrub and begin to establish a veritable timeline of the lives of my two sisters and myself. Photographs eliciting swoons from anyone who loves a cute infant are cradled by colors both pastel and festive, reading titles of “Baby’s First Christmas.” Every year, the three of us crowd around the same pictures, holding them up beside our faces, inquiring to the group as to whether we still look the same and sometimes conceding to the embarrassment of realizing that we are comparing ourselves to the wrong baby entirely.

Our tree also reveals trinkets of our travels. Some of these are simple, yet intriguing alluding to stories worth hearing, and others are perfectly tacky, simply explaining that we were, in fact, tourists. A china rooster, painted in colors that swell into the image of a Tuscan countryside, sits patiently away from platters and bowls of its style hidden away in our cupboards; and a copper likeness of the Eiffel Tower turns on its red ribbon, bringing a sense of Parisian elegance in each subtle movement it makes. However, in the midst of this European excursion lies Henry the Eighth (he is, he is) and his six, not-so-fortunate wives, sewn together with felt as a staple souvenir at Windsor Palace, bringing the caliber of our foreign contingent down a peg.

As my mother, sisters and I move these beloved trinkets from storage boxes to the arms of our tree we share new moments of laughter and familiar musings. We all laugh and shake our heads with what has become annual confusion as to why we have an ornament of a purple naked lady with a similarly-colored afro of feathered hair, and eventually decide to proudly display her. My mother takes a second to show us a few ornate pieces she was gifted in her childhood, and I decide to break the formality by sticking a likeness of Mister Potato Head in the middle of the tree.

Our tree will never look perfect, well organized, color-coded or worthy of a store window; yet it will always hold a place in my heart, as my family’s tradition, of being anything but traditional.

Maddie Hoffman is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.