Blinging the Tree, Girl Style

Filed under: Divorce & Custody, Single Parenting, Opinions

Illustration by Dori Hartley


"We don't have to add more bling to the tree," says my mother.

"Uh, yes, we do," I say. "God gave the world Christmas trees for the express purpose of blinging. It's in Genesis. I'm sure of it."

"It's already blung," says Daughter #2. "It's enough already."

"I still see some bare spots," I say. "Get in there, A-Team! GO, GO, GO! Plastic and wood near the bottom, glass near the top. Where do we put clear ones?"

"IN FRONT OF LIGHTS," drone my well-programmed holiday robots.

"Why do we do that, troops?"

"TO MAXIMIZE SPARKLE."

Good little apprentices. What would Christmas be without Mommy's tree-trimming control issues?

My mother is staring at the tree. She is skeptical. "I really don't think it needs any more."

I haul out another box of ornaments and hand it to her. "Get with the program, Elf."

She sighs and sits at the dining room table with the ornaments. She begins dusting them, one by one, although they have been in sealed storage for a year. Polishing the ornaments seems to soothe her, so I let it go.

I stand back and survey the scene. Once, before the divorce, there was a papa bear here, decorating with us. Now, decorating the tree is a girls-only activity. I realize that this is the first year I haven't missed his presence during the procuring of the tree, the stringing of the lights. I am simultaneously man- and woman-of-the-house, and right now, it feels pretty good.

The girls are laughing, cooperating. They joke with my friend Shelly, who's visiting from D.C., and helped us lug home the tree. Although she's Jewish, Shelly loves our Christmas prep.

The dogs and the cats laze nearby, surveying the tree action. Everyone's been fed. The mortgage is paid for another month. We are home and we have each other: family, both chosen and luck of the draw.

We are definitely lucky.

My mother stands, holding a pair of shiny jingle bells.

"These look like KAH-JOANIES," she stage-whispers.

"I think you mean cojones," I say.

"Ka-Joanies. Yes."

"UH-OH. BLANK SPOT ON OUR TREE CANVAS," I yell. "THREE O' CLOCK, RIGHT BY UNCLE JOE'S OLD POPSICLE-STICK STAR."

My elves rush in with bling. "What's a Ka-Joanie?" asks Daughter #1.

Shelly falls off the couch, laughing.

"Um. You know how boys have a-" I gesture downward.

"Jennifer!" My mother narrows her eyes. Daughter #1 is still looking at me quizzically.

"Cojones is the Spanish word for, um, the-"

"JENNIFER!"

"-let's just say it's the word for ... the boy parts directly behind the boy parts. Kind of."

"Oh." Daughter #1 is neither impressed, nor traumatized. My mother, however, is traumatized.

"HONESTLY, Jennifer," she hisses.

"You brought up the Ka-Joanies. Not me. I was busy blinging."

"Blunging," shouts Daughter #2.

"That's not a word," retorts Daughter #1.

"Yes it is. We blunged it up. We blunged up the tree." Daughter #2 pumps her fist at the evergreen in victory. She knows what she knows.

I know what I know. I love these women, old and young. We have girl Ka-Joanies. And each other.

Best Christmas gift of all.

For more fun at the Matterns, watch Jennifer and her mom jam it up, Christmas carol style.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.