Ana Veciana-Suarez: I flunked Christmas Decorating 101


So there I am, sitting at the dentist’s office, browsing through glossy magazines brimming with lavish Christmas displays — garlanded mantels, ornate door wreaths, perfectly decorated balsam firs — when I get choked up.

It’s not the spirit of the season that gets to me; it’s the sight of the well-appointed table with glitter-tipped pine cones, flaming candelabra and adorable little owl napkin rings.

Who in the world makes this stuff?

I listen to the buzz of the drill, the gurgle of the drain, the hum of teeth polisher and think: Not me.

The holiday season invariably makes me feel inadequate, lacking in some essential talent, like an elf who can’t cobble toys or a Santa who can’t ho-ho-ho in the proper pitch. In this season of plenty, I under perform.

I’m not talking about existential angst or depression or spiritual deficiency. Those are serious conditions that I’m fortunate enough to avoid. I’m referring instead to my skills as decorator in chief. Even as good tidings and great cheer surround me like soft fleece, I fail to whip up anything that resembles those magazine tableaux.

When I decorate for Christmas, the result is merely satisfactory. It doesn’t matter what I buy or how much I spend. The art of making something beautiful from holly and berries, tinsel and lights, eludes me. I have neither an eye for color nor a knack for detail. I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of the eclectic, with a flair for bringing together items that don’t match, but I’m not fooling anyone, least of all the person I want to most impress — me.

No passersby will admire the potted poinsettia display by my door. (There isn’t one.) And no miniature village will inspire visions of a folk-art masterpiece, either. (I gave away the little houses when we downsized, thank goodness.) Christmas décor at my house is serviceable — a plastic serving bowl on a table set with Villeroy & Boch china.

I could try to channel Martha Stewart. I could enroll in a flower-arranging class or watch how-to videos on creating tablescapes. (That’s what they call centerpieces these days.) After all, I am a person who will labor hours over a sentence, returning to it again and again until it rings like glass chimes in my ear. I know that practice and focus can create, if not perfection, at least something that glows and sings.

Yet, I’m also the type of person who shoves her Christmas tree against a corner of the living room so she doesn’t have to decorate the side no one sees. Not that I don’t enjoy hanging ornaments and draping branches with the ancient gold-wire ribbon that survived five children. I do, I do. I even sing along with an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas CD. Still, it seems pointless to spend another hour on seven feet of hidden plastic and PVC.

I bet there are plenty of people just like me, all-thumbs wannabes putting up a good front but still falling short on Christmas Decorations 101. I bet they, too, would be happier chomping on peppermint bark than decking the halls. At least once enjoyed, good food is gone. It doesn’t need to be taken down and put away in a big box, only to be pulled out and put together all over again next year.

Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.

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