Editor’s Note: The idea of purchasing and renovating a home is a dream that many carry, but few of us stop to consider the complications and complexities of the process until we are already knee-deep in drywall debris. Lisa Przystup, a writer, florist, and frequent contributor to Front + Main has been kind enough to share her journey of home ownership with us. Check out the first installment here. Enjoy!
Illustration by Tallulah Fontaine
I love the holidays. It’s actually a bit of a problem. Every year I have a checklist of things that I want to do, which means it’s a checklist of things that I need to do. And by “I” I mean myself and my husband, who unwittingly signed himself up for this the moment he said “I do”. I love the holidays because suddenly everything feels like magic—there really is a feeling of good-will and cheer that isn’t always present the rest of the year. Grown adults chop down trees that smell like happiness and drag them into their homes to hang ornaments that hold a specific feeling form a specific time in their lives and then they go ahead and illuminate these snapshots of memories with sparkly lights and then, as if that wasn’t enough, they string even more sparkly lights on the exterior of their homes.
It’s a time of hope. Of stillness. Of festive merriment.
This gushing I’m doing here is entirely uncharacteristic—in our relationship my husband is the eternal optimist while I play bad cop to his good as the realistic pessimist—but something about this time of year turns me into a popcorn-stringing, wreath-making, hot glue-gunning, ornament-crafting machine.
Which leads me to holiday decorating. We spent our first Christmas in our new home last year and as such our decorations were minimal but sweet. The fact that we were able to even get our act together to do anything was an accomplishment in and of itself. We strung garland and lights from our front porch and suddenly the peeling paint and disrepair didn’t seem so bad. With the leaves off the trees, our house was visible again from the road and the charm of heading up our driveway towards our twinkling house never lost its appeal. We recreated the same exterior illumination this year and I can tell you that the magic of it still hasn’t diminished. I had my sights on wrapping the spindly bushes in front of our porch with rainbow lights but thanks to my inability to process size, the 4 x 6 netting that I triumphantly bought at Michael’s felt as productive as a loincloth on our large hedges.
Last year we passed on the Christmas tree, opting for a smaller rainbow-colored fiber optic model we inherited from my husband’s Grandmother because we knew we’d be there so infrequently, but this year we said to hell with practicality and stopped at Bell’s Christmas Tree Farm in Accord on our drive up to Delhi for what was hands down one of the most wonderful experiences we’ve had this holiday season. I had never chopped down my own Christmas tree (and I technically still haven’t as it was my husband who crawled under the tree and sawed it down). Up until this year we had procured our yearly evergreen from a Home Depot in Queens because I’ll be dammed if I’m going to pay $150 for a five-foot tree off the streets of New York. Wandering through the rows and rows of pines, scarfing down the heady smell, I practically passed out from happiness.
In the same way that you need furniture to fill an empty new house, one needs ornaments to fill a new tree. We already had a pretty solid collection that we had amassed over the years in Brooklyn but being the stickler for tradition that I am I wanted to keep those reserved for our tree in Greenpoint (yes, we are officially a two-tree household, which feels gratuitous but I will make no apologies). This meant that we had to figure out what to hang on the branches of this most magnificent Douglas Fir I had ever laid my eyes on—so beautiful that I felt compelled to name her (Cecelia if you’re curious). The underside of her branches glowed a cool blue-grey like the silvery belly of a fish and when we sawed off an additional 12 inches the crystal-clear sap that dripped luxuriously from the trunk felt like some sort of elixir that should be bottled.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the old-fashioned ornaments I remember hanging from my grandparents tree—the metallic balls with indented caves of faceted folds that reflected the lights on the tree back a thousand fold. Sourcing these can be time-consuming so I was happy to find that Shiny-Brite, the company known for brightly colored round glass ornaments that seemed to populate Christmas trees in the ‘40s and ‘50s, had collaborated on a collection for West Elm. Three boxes later the tree was decorated for the most part and the bare spots were filled with DIY orange slice ornaments, a wax paper chain garland we made while watching “A Christmas Story” as we argued about the appropriate strip length and width, and a red wood bead garland that Jonathon picked up on a whim at Price Chopper, the local grocery store in town.
Leftover garland from the porch was quickly draped over door frames and across empty walls and when we ran out of leftovers we bought more to twine around the banister of our staircase. The last touch was a boxwood wreath that we hung in the window of our kitchen door.
The corner that our tree is in isn’t the most photogenic but it really doesn’t matter because when you turn the lights out the glow from our Fir reminds me of all the Christmases past and most importantly, forces me to take a minute to stop and admire and just be.