This year’s Christmas tree came with a ribbon tied to one of the branches identifying the tree as a “North Carolina Fraser fir.” So I named it Treena Simone in honor of North Carolinian Nina Simone.
Granted, the High Priestess of Soul wasn’t the holly-jolly type of entertainer we typically associate with the December holidays. Her distance from that type of frivolity is typified by this description she once gave of her friendship with playwright Lorraine Hansberry: “We never talked about men or clothes or other such inconsequential things when we got together. It was always Marx, Lenin and revolution—real girls’ talk.”
But hey, Simone did add that “Good King Wenceslas” intro to “Little Girl Blue.” Let’s go a-caroling and a-consciousness-raising with this video of the number from Simone’s set at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1976:
Treena isn’t anywhere near as formidable. She’s little and serves no function beyond the decorative. I’m starting to think I should have named her Treea Zadora.
Among the festive finery festooning Treena’s branches are string lights; sprigs of fake berries; a wicker star; red and golden glass balls; four glass Golden Girls balls, each bearing a different photo—one for Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia; colorful construction-paper creations from one of my sister’s children; a white disk stamped with 2020’s buzzwords such as “Zoom” and “Flatten the curve” (my mom sent me this item in the mail); and ornaments shaped like Arkansas (my home state), a yellow New York City taxicab, the letter “F” (for my husband, Frank; the matching “Z” for Zac is lost), and Quebec Winter Carnival mascot Bonhomme, whom I suspect of being a disguised Michelin Man hiding out in Canada to avoid paying child support for his son, the Pillsbury Doughboy.
The tree stands next to a bookcase from which we have hung our red-and-white Christmas stockings. White felt letters indicate “F” (for Frank again), “L” (for our dog, Lucy), and “Z” (yours truly). I usually decorate my stocking with timely pictures clipped from magazines. This season’s edition features Stacey Abrams and Prince. I do not feel that I need to make a case for the eternal timeliness of the latter.
A couple red pillows on the couch round out the apartment’s yuletide bric-a-brac for 2020. It probably doesn’t sound like much in the way of decor, but the cozy quotient around here is high when the lights are twinkling and Judy Garland’s Christmas special is playing on the TV and Prince is glowering sexily from my stocking. (As a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses—who don’t celebrate holidays—Prince might have objected to my roping him into a Christmas role, but, you know, I didn’t like what he said about gay marriage that time, so we’ve always had a complicated relationship.)
In any case, it’s refreshing to see different stuff decking the halls in which I’ve been confined for nearly every minute of my life since March.
My annual light-verse abomination in the holiday card that Frank and I send to our friends and loved ones reflects what a strange, miserable year it’s been. As with last year’s greeting, the verse is meant to be sung to a well-known Christmas carol.
Hark! The herald angels sing Oh what change a year can bring! Last December who'd have guessed Just how much we'd be unblessed? Plague and grief and no T.P. Said goodbye to R.B.G. Jobs are scarce and earth's on fire — Why do I hear an angel choir? Surely things will soon improve Or to New Zealand we shall move
Happy holidays to all you princes and priestesses and bonhommes and doughboys and girls both golden and blue.