Smells are amazing. They can trigger powerful moods and vivid memories. The right smell can change the course of your entire day, putting a smile on your face that may not have been there before.
Homemade cookies right out of the oven. Freshly mown grass. Your favorite meal, simmering or roasting out in the kitchen. The first few minutes of a summer rain. The seasoned pages of an old book. The bright, crisp pages of a new book, which is somehow the opposite and yet the same.
These smells, among others, are all powerful ones for me, but nothing tops the smell of a new Christmas tree.
It’s a layered smell. Cold, yet cozy. Fresh, but earthy. Sharp, and at the same time, soft and welcoming.
Few scents stir up so many memories for me.
The first tree lot I ever went to as a kid, and how magical it seemed that a place like that could just pop up in a parking lot.
The ornaments from my childhood, including the mechanical Hallmark ornaments. One had elves working in Santa’s workshop. On another they were driving around in bumper cars. Oh! The bubble lights that I loved so much back then (I prefer the classic white bulbs these days).
The year our cat climbed the tree, knocking it over. I think that may have been the year we started using an artificial tree. Never again.
Learning to wrap presents with my mom. She’s a bit of a gift wrapping perfectionist and now, naturally, so am I.
Stringing lights on the giant pine tree in the front yard with my dad. Never taking them down until the tree got chopped.
The orange Mom Santa always put in the toe of the stockings (knit by my grandmother) to give them the right shape.
The first time I went tree shopping with my wife. Her family warned me about how particular she was about finding the perfect tree. They didn’t exaggerate. Three stops and dozens of trees later, we found it. It was a long process that made me love her even more.
The first time we decorated a tree together, with her beautiful style. White lights. Simple ornaments. Adorable red bows all over the tree.
Warm Christmas Eves in front of the fireplace.
The year we decorated the tree twice, because we had to replace our leaking tree stand.
Seeing a live production of White Christmas, and being obsessed with the movie ever since.
The year we started using empty, wrapped boxes as decorations. We sat and wrapped for hours while Harry Potter movies ran in the background. I wrapped them, she added the bows.
Watching Lynne watch It’s A Wonderful Life for the first time.
Staying at Christmas Farm Inn in Jackson, NH. Might just be the Christmassiest place on earth.
All the time spent frantically watching the weather on the news with fingers crossed for a white Christmas. No luck this year. Stupid El Niño.
So many, many others.
I think that’s one of the things I love most about this time of year. Everything just seems so much more connected.
The past flows into the present in a way that feels more tangible than at any other time.
Merry Christmas. I think I’ll go stand in front of the tree and take a nice, deep breath.