11: Wreath Rivalry

11: Wreath Rivalry

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Wreath Rivalry

Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.

~Erich Fromm

It was a wreath only a mother could love. The program promised “100 holiday ideas for a total of $100.” As with virtually every designer show on cable, I was completely sold at the first airy wave of the hostess. Beautifully dressed interior designers frolicked through their demonstrations of ideas, many of which required a master’s degree in glue guns and access to esoteric waxes from India. But then a handsome, delicate man in a black turtleneck with an air of bored superiority showed how anyone could make a wreath with drycleaner bags. By tying shredded strips of the plastic bags around a disassembled coat hanger, you could create a shiny, ecologically friendly wreath.

We rarely went to the dry cleaner, but our mountain of un-recycled grocery bags looked like decent substitutes. So I started cutting and tying strips around a wire circle of an old coat hanger. A few hours later, I was astonished. It looked pretty good.

This is what cable does to you. You actually come to believe that plastic bags tied around a coat hanger look pretty good.

I added a few ribbons and ornaments and decided I’d give this to my mother to add to the huge number of decorations around her house. She loved to decorate, would set a beautiful table at the holidays, and I thought this would be a fun addition to a window somewhere.

When I delivered it on one of our family visits early in December, it was fourth grade all over again. She loved it and promptly displayed it on the mantel. I was a little embarrassed, but also ridiculously proud.

As the holidays reached their fever pitch, we returned to her house for the big dinner. Everyone was there, and we were a bit late, having had a few meltdowns with the kids along the way. After we finished hugging and getting rid of coats and shoes, I walked into the formal dining room.

On the mantel was a huge wreath, practically encompassing the fireplace, filled with glimmering ribbons, bells, and ornaments. It was gorgeous, the greenery absolutely perfect, the colors flowing in a holiday harmony that would have silenced any decent choir. I was in awe.

And there, on the little music stand next to the mantel, was my recycled bag wreath.

“Oh! Did you see the wreath Christy sent me?” my mother said, walking into the room behind me.

Of course. My sister. From across the Midwest she had reached into our open-ended game of sibling rivalry blackjack and tossed down a big, fat ace right here, in my mother’s house. Like a typical little sister, I didn’t even see it coming.

“Wow. It’s amazing,” I said, hoping there was as little animosity in my voice as was possible under the circumstances.

“And see? I put yours right there. I wanted everyone to see the wreaths my daughters gave me.”

There had to be a dagger somewhere. Something sharp I could pluck out my eyes with before I saw the look on everyone’s face. I was mortified.

I turned to look at my mother, to try and apologize for my sad little homemade wreath. But one look at her brought me up short. She had no idea. She had no idea of the vast gulf that lay between my wreath with the ripped grocery bags and the epic salute to the spirits of yuletide through the ages on the mantel. In her eyes, they were somehow THE SAME.

I was floored. First and foremost, I realized I’d have no chance to ditch my plastic ring of Christmas in the closet, sparing myself from the inevitable comparisons that would race across the faces of every relative at the table. Then, it dawned on me.

My mother is incredible.

For her there was no difference. Forget the white shredded plastic versus glossy greenery and silk ribbons. Never mind the cheap ornaments versus hand-painted porcelain from Europe. So what that one was small and insignificant versus the other, large enough to rival the tree itself. None of that mattered. In her heart, in her eyes, they were from her daughters. They were our love shaped into circles and she cherished them both.

I looked at my own daughters, who were busy running from room to room at my mother’s house, squealing with energy. My eyes burned with love and I hoped when the day came, they would see this beautiful blindness in me.

As a daughter, I’m still completely mortified by the memory of the wreath rivalry where I was so completely left in the dust. Yet I take considerable comfort in knowing that to my mother, there was no contest — and there never has been.

~Winter Prosapio

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