wild thing

(image courtesy Yaroslav Gerzhedovich)

(image courtesy Yaroslav Gerzhedovich)

Last weekend, we got our tree. We like to get it early so we get our money’s worth.

I set it up in the stand and filled the bowl with water while my youngest jumped up and down on the sofa, yelling directions: “Stand her up!” “Feed it lotsa water, mama!”

“It looks like a giant furry beast, doesn’t it?” I asked her.

“A friendly one. Like Where The Wild Things Are.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.  “Exactly!”

“She wanted to come in our house to get warm.”

“Just wait until we dress her up. She’ll look so pretty.”

“She’ll look like a big happy hairy princess.” My girl helped me knock off the dead needles with a broom. “I’m petting her! She likes it!”

I know it costs more than I should spend, but there’s nothing like a fresh-cut tree. For me, the tree is what it’s all about. That piney scent of sap triggers old memories, memories so deep and dark they don’t even feel like they belong to me, of walking through darkness over crunchy snow and a big moon framed by furry boughs. I remember Robert Frost’s poem and going through the wardrobe and taking a sleigh ride under an ermine throw with turkish delight; I think of Grendel standing outside, cold and hungry, and I imagine ballerinas dancing under a sky filled with powdered sugar.  

That smell is the essence of cold and green and I wish I could drink it– if I could, it would probably taste just like Greek Mastiha and warm me like gratitude and I’d be able to stand barefoot in the snow with nothing but needles to keep me warm. I’d stand there all winter, happy, silent, and still, watching stars shoot like sparklers and the buttery moon roll along.

We are entertaining a wild thing for the month of December. Winter has invaded our home and taken our imaginations hostage.

What’s the thing about the holidays you like best?  Or the thing you’d gladly do without?


About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. Let the imagination run free like the gate is wide open 🙂 Love the post.

  2. I love this – evocative indeed. Sadly no real tree here, as D is allergic to nature. If he’d been born a hundred years ago, he’d be a sailor, out where the salt could help his lungs. The only guest I have here is a Christmas Pudding, which must be fed with brandy every other day leading up to the big one.

    • This Christmas Pudding sounds like a fascinating character. I imagine it sits like a toad, croaking for booze. (Allergic to nature!? I can’t even imagine!)

      • Yes, allergic to almost everything, birds, furred beasts, trees, grass, pollen, dust. The shore is good, where the waves hit and keep the air sharp.

        I love the idea of it like a toad, like that Norman McCaig poem.

  3. So dreamy and cold and sweet. I love it too. Happy holidays to you. My favorite tree was a perfectly shaped miniature I decorated with my earrings and a string of real pearls.

    • That’s so funny, Chris– I did exactly that one year (sans pearls, just my cheap 80’s gewgaws). Funny how a tree is magical, no matter what you do to it. I wish I had a picture. (Did you take one, perchance?)

  4. I took a picture with my mind.

  5. TheOthers1

    I’ve never been very focused or aware of the holiday. I don’t know why, but I guess the intensity of it has worn off since I’ve become an adult so I don’t think about it much.

  6. Todd

    Yes, that’s it. It’s all about the smell! Christmas was always a big deal in our big family growing up, so I’m intent on keeping that tradition with my family. Sir Bratrick is still little but knows it means lots of stuff for him and a visit to Gama’s house. We’ll soon be making the annual pilgrimage back to ye olde homestead and they can fight over who loves who more. It’s still there under so many tall beautiful trees and surrounded by their ancient smells. Here in L.A. I miss the trees I grew up with a lot, but I found something that helps. My friends and I sometimes run the trails in the mountains above Smogopolis and I make a point of gathering some sap from pine trees up there. If you put it over a candle (in one of those “aroma therapy” ceramic things) it fills the place with that great smell you described so well. Then you can dream away of snowy fields and forest gnomes or yesterday in the trees as you please.

    • Sir Bratrick is a lucky boy. I guess that’s what it could turn into– a pissing contest to see who has the biggest love. I’m hoping we don’t have a re-do of Thanksgiving (*shudder*) and I don’t think I could live very far from tall trees. I’m surprised and glad for you that LA has something natural, what with all those prominent advertisements for plastic surgery and anti-real trends like that, I’m surprised they don’t have lots where they sell scented plastic trees, but maybe this is just an old, unsupported bias I have– maybe it’s completely different than that. I hope it is.

      • Todd

        You’re right, it’s just an old bias peculiar to Norcalians. LA is a mosh pit of everything despicable and wonderful. If you look, you can find it here. …but that g’dam skinny-ass Santa dude in the the red and green speedo better stop panhandling me at the off-ramp. He doesn’t smell anything like Christmas!

  7. Todd

    Oh yeah. I like that photo, it feels so much like winter. I hope that guy is ice fishing.

  8. This is the one weird time to live in California. You can’t get the tree too early or the heat will kill it. Also, there is just something wrong with 70 degree days and decorating the house for a snowy holidays. Oh well…for the eleven other months I sing it’s praises. Absolutely nothing like the magic in a child’s eyes when they see the tree. Thanks for a lovely post.

    • Annie– I live in CA too! And our tree is a giant bundle of kindling when we’ve sucked all the fun out of it, a seriously dangerous fire hazard. We’re just closing our doors and shutting the curtains and pretending.

  9. We cut our own tree for the first time past weekend. We found a great little tree farm and traipsed around in the mud for a while, then had hot chocolate and did some shopping at the craft barn. Lots of fun, and the tree smells like heaven.

    Beautiful post, Anna.

  10. Everything here (music, words, images) is just making me love that December spirit – It’s been holding off – thank you, I’ve been waiting for it to happen. Now we need more snow!

  11. I love your descriptions of the Christmas tree and all the senses it triggers. My favorite part of the holiday season is the coldness outside (Although here in VA it was in the high 60’s yesterday) and the warmth inside, peopled bundled up and scurrying along to reach those warm havens. Also, cider and eggnog 🙂

  12. Well, I love G. W.’s December, which I haven’t heard in ages, thank you very much! I love the tree as well, even though we never had a real one when I was growing up. My mother didn’t like to cut living things for her own pleasure. She didn’t even like flower bouquets because she felt flowers belonged outdoors. But, I loved the (fake) green tree, all dolled up with lights and ancient family ornaments that we would forget about each year until the came out of the ancient cardboard box that smelled of musty closet.

    What I don’t like is the utter commercialism of the holiday, the shop till you drop, Black Friday mania wrecks everything sweet about Christmas.

    • I hear you. I can’t even look at catalogues or listen to the radio this time of year. If I do, some weird sweat washes over me and I find my car headed toward some godforsaken mall. Ugh. (And I do feel slightly guilty about killing the tree.)

  13. We’ve used an artificial tree for the last few years, but we’re going real this year. Can’t wait until the smell fills the house. In fact, I’m leaving to pick one out in 20 minutes.

  14. There’s just not this kind of cozy magic about Christmas in Australia… But the part I love about ours is we get drunk on sunlight, and imagine our futures gleaming before us into the new year. It’s always a high (love the music here…very evocative) 🙂

  15. I have no good memories of Christmas as a kid. For a number of reasons I won’t bore you with. And though it’s taken me years to create, from scratch, the experience I’ve always wanted and needed, I’ve finally figured it out. I love everything that happens from Thanksgiving through the New Year, and my kids — grown now, but coming home for Christmas — do to. My tree is up and decorated. I’ve got a big wreath on the front door and 4 giant poinsettias on the stairs. Can’t wait for my kids to get here on the 22nd!!

    Happy holidays, Anna.

  16. “Memories so deep and dark they feel like they don’t even belong to me.”

    Holy wow, honey. Holy freakin wow.

    I forgot how much I adore your mind.

  17. I like the lights best. They soothe me when I’m nervous.

  18. what a wonderful post. Merry Christmas to you , your hairy visiter and your family.

  19. “That piney scent of sap triggers old memories, memories so deep and dark they don’t even feel like they belong to me?” Your use of words is remarkable! You transported me back to the 218 Lovell days post parents divorcing…and memories of a little girl, but are they mine or someone else’s?

    You are brilliant, and I bow down to you…once again. Merci chère Anna!

  20. Oh, and thank you for the George Winston audio experience! My heart swells when I hear him play. And it brought me right back to a concert in San Francisco in what feels like another lifetime. Merci merci!

  21. I love classic Christmas music and the smell of a real tree. Sadly, we don’t have time for a real tree now that we’re all older, so we light tree-scented candles. Sad, sad, sad.

  22. Such exquisite thoughts and a delight to read. We have an artificial tree this year. Boo hoo. Picking out a tree and cutting one it down is one of my favorite holiday things to do.

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