Like most people did this past weekend, I put up my Christmas tree. This involved taking a trip to Target and actually buying a tree to put up. Normally, I’d help my mother put up The Family Tree at her place after Thanksgiving. But this isn’t a normal year. To put it quite frankly, I just needed some twinkling lights and holiday cheer in my life immediately.
This also marks the very first year I have my own Christmas tree. After moving out of my childhood home several years ago to live with my then-boyfriend, we just didn’t have one. We had a small decorative tree that sat on a dinner tray at the entrance. We hung monogrammed stockings over the dormant fireplace. But that was it. Part of me always thought that putting up a Christmas tree meant christening my boyfriend’s apartment my New Home, and I was still mourning the home I left.
My childhood home belongs to another family now. And now, finally, after living in my own apartment for what will be my third Christmas, I have a tree. I also bought a wreath for my front door made entirely of branches, adorned with fake pinecones and spruce leaves. It was something I’ve always wanted to have but never did.
Buying my first Christmas tree—surveying the options, picking out the one I wanted, pulling the long box from the shelf, loading it onto the cart, handing my debit card to the cashier, and finally bringing it home, opening up the box, putting it together, and decorating it, all by myself—felt like finally moving on from something I hadn’t completely let go of. And it was a wonderful feeling.
Home for the holidays.
I am thankful for so many things this year. But I am especially thankful for finally feeling at home in a place I didn’t grow up in. Feeling like I truly belonged somewhere was always something I struggled with; I felt lost in the world for a while. Like a mother bird gathering twigs, I’m finally starting to nestle.
After the rough year I—and the rest of the world—had, I am also thankful to be in a secure-enough position to go to a store and pick out a brand-new Christmas tree, ornaments, and wreath, and forget to glance at the total. I realize not everyone can, and for that, I feel fortunate.
Being in quarantine for most of this year has made me thankful for the little things, and grand things, too. Here are only a few that come to mind:
- My employer, for allowing us all to return to work and continue safely from home throughout the year, and genuinely reflecting concern for our mental and physical wellbeing.
- My faraway friends, who video-chatted with me for hours each month as we worked through our anxiety, our triumphs, and our feelings.
- Healthcare workers, postal workers, food delivery drivers, and everyone else who does a job I can’t.
- Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Black people for ending this four-year nightmare.
- Sunny mornings, and my windows facing east.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons, for being the wholesome escape I needed right from the start of quarantine, and for keeping me sane more than anything.
- And for my loved ones, for letting me talk about Animal Crossing for almost as long as I played it (925 hours).
What are you thankful for this year?
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.