Like the nearly unintelligible fellow who manages the sunglasses cart at my local highway rest stop, Christmas offers revelers a variety of shades. Bing, as we all know, dreamt of a white one, while The King, sadly enough, suffered through a blue, blue, blue, blue one. The Thing, not surprisingly, has had to make do with an orange one over the years, whereas Yao Ming is presumably stuck with a red one (said presumption contingent upon Christmas even being celebrated on a regular basis in communist China—a scenario which 90 painstaking seconds of scholarly research on The Google has yet to confirm or deny).
In any case, as Messrs. Hefner, Grant, and Laurie will attest, there are plenty of (wait for it…) hues to choose from during your seasonal celebrations. This year, for example, my family decided to have a green Christmas. (Well, okay, technically it was my grandmother who decided we should have a green Christmas and who relayed said thematic tint to the rest of us, but no matter…said the physicist when asked why the physical object ceased to exist.)
I, for one, was thrilled with the idea, as vocal environmentalism has always been a casual hobby of mine. Which is to say, after taking my standard 20 minute shower and getting dressed with the portable heater going full blast, I’m downright brilliant at telling people not to stand in front of the fridge with the door open and to turn off the faucet while they’re brushing their teeth. With the usual combination of profligate extended family members turning out to celebrate the recessi—err, holidays with us this year, there would be plenty of ecologically informed scolding to go around.
Pulling into my grandmother’s snowbanked driveway that Christmas Eve Eve, we (mom, dad, sis, and yours truly) immediately noticed that she didn’t have her outdoor Christmas lights on to greet us as usual. Hmm, that must be one of her green cutbacks this year, I shrewdly deduced. Driving closer, however, we realized that there were, in fact, a few strands of lights strung about the bushes. Except, rather than the standard array of twinkling primary and secondary colors, there was only one color that we could observe glowing dully through the frost-bitten glaze: green. That’s weird, I thought carelessly. All the visible bulbs except green have burned out. It must be a sign—or maybe it’s just that she hasn’t gotten new lights since the first Bush administration.
Thinking no more of it, we began unloading the car and transporting the myriad gifts and gear to their appropriate indoor destinations. Entering the living room, mom let out an involuntary laugh. “The tree’s not even decorated!” she exclaimed.
She was right; there wasn’t an ornament in sight. At first glance, there didn’t appear to be any lights adorning the bottom-heavy spruce’s naked boughs, either. Score one for planet earth, I mentally applauded. However, a closer inspection revealed a string of small-bulbed lights wrapped around the tree in the standard pyramidal fashion; they had merely blended in to the thick foliage because of their own green-coated wiring. Rummaging around for the master plug, I discovered a power strip at the base of the tree and flicked the switch.
Wumph. A verdant swath of light assaulted my retinas like the Abominable Mossman as the tree began to writhe in a swirling sea of green. Jean Shepherd, had he been standing on the back lawn at the time, might have commented upon the soft glow of green electric sex gleaming in the window. UFO enthusiasts might have mistaken the room for an alien landing site and no one could fault them for it, for every branch and bough from tip to trunk was bathed in green, every incandescent protuberance in the set green! In other words, a green tree wrapped in green wires lit by green bulbs. I began to feel a niggling sensation in the moldy recesses of my conservation-concerned conscience.
“Mom,” I began. “Did Grammy ever elaborate on what she meant when she said she wanted to have a green Christmas this year?” Mom just looked at me with a bewildered smile and shrugged.
Shaking off the unexpected turn of events, I pushed the eco-illogical aside and rationalized the state of affairs. Well, Grammy may not have the most vivid understanding of what it means to “go green,” but at least we can enjoy the tree in all its pine fresh, au natural goodness this year.
That’s when mom pushed aside a stack of presents that had been sitting in front of the fireplace. “I found the ornaments,” she announced—somewhat ruefully, in retrospect. Kicking myself for getting my Thoreau-inspired hopes up, I turned around to find her gripping two clear plastic boxes full of ornaments I’d never seen before. Ornaments that were, in fact, brand new.
And which apparently came in only a single color: green.
Oh. My. Log. My brain struggled to comprehend. Did my grandmother really expect us to have a “green” Christmas by decorating her green Christmas tree strung in green lights with—swallow hard—green ornaments? After seeing the ten other boxes stacked behind my mother, I realized that the answer was yes.
Fifteen minutes and three bloodlettings later (bleeping “attach your own hook”-style ornaments!), I stepped back to admire our dandy handiwork and take a picture with my camera phone in order to visually regale my girlfriend with yet another one of my family’s flaky foibles. She’s not gonna believe how green my Christmas actually was, I grinned. Unfortunately, whether due to the inferior quality of my pixel ratio or (more likely) the Incredible Hulk-like proportions of emerald emissions in the air, photo after photo refused to reveal anything more than a hazy, kelly green blob on my normally crystal clear LCD screen—appropriate considering my girlfriend’s name is Kelly, but ultimately useless since no one in their right mind would ever make that pedantically esoteric connection and since you couldn’t even see what the photo was trying to depict anyway. A second attempt at digital posterity using my cousin’s camera phone yielded similarly oversaturated results, so we let the matter drop.
After accepting that, perhaps, this was not going to be the sort of green Christmas I had first envisioned, I made one last handsome and valiant effort to eco-fy the experience by meticulously smoothing and folding every redeemable piece of tissue and wrapping paper discarded from their respective baubles and trinkets Christmas morning. After filling three paper bags worth of recycling and proudly trucking them to the garage, I returned to the house satisfied that I had done everything I could to make the world a healthier place that year, while simultaneously accruing new material to lord over everyone else’s head in the new year.
Or so I thought.
Alas and alack, my motherly nature toward Mother Nature would, in the end, prove fruitless, as the local recycling company—apparently staffed by the troglodytic descendants of Ned Ludd—refused to collect the refuse on the grounds that wrapping paper was not recyclable.
Yeesh. All I can say is, Ms. Piggy, if that lime-skinned fellow you’ve been pursuing all these yearsstill hasn’t succumbed to your fine swine advances, I know another lean green machine who—unlike our president-elect—isn’t afraid to add a little pork to his spending bill. Call me Babe-lett, and we’ll make sweet, beautiful bacon together. And then compost the leftovers (whatever the hell that means).
[Editor’s Note: I recently submitted a slight variation on the above piece to one of the newspapers to which I used to contribute on a somewhat regular basis. However, since I’m incredibly impatient, I have also decided to publish it here until they decide whether to run it or merely laugh derisively at it for a few minutes before throwing it in the circular file and mocking my mother.]