I’ve never had a fake tree before, never wanted one. My extended family has had a tree farm for 4 generations, real trees smell wonderful, they’re beautiful and they are a part of every Christmas in my home. I’ve heard it’s more ecologically friendly to buy a fake tree and reuse it, but it seemed… fake! Last year, I discovered the Mardi Gras tree tradition and realized that my trees now have to last until February or March every year. Hello fake trees!
Pre-lit are all the rage but I opted for old school. I make most of my ornaments and romanticize traditions so it felt odd constructing a tree, especially when I found the tag reading, “Made in China.” I wondered what my great-grandfather would think of that, had icky feelings about it myself. That is, until I got it put together, lit, and decorated and realized this tree was bushy and beautiful and would remain that way throughout the season, even the decade.
This year, I made my first Who Dat decorations, starting with my baby New Year in a Saints helmet instead of the annual top hat. I’m looking forward to making my second round of Mardi Gras ornaments when the new year begins.
Yesterday. I attended a Christmas Party at Raintree Children and Family Services, a non-profit founded in 1926. The party was in Raintree House, a group home for foster girls who’ve had trouble with placement. The girls were delightful and dressed for the occasion. Members of the board, the staff and the Newcomers (a group for people new to the New Orleans area) joined the girls for caroling and Paw Paw’s reading of “A Cajun Night Before Christmas.”
In case you haven’t heard it:
Then, Santa showed up to give out big bags of early gifts for the girls. Bathrobes and jackets and earrings, oh my! Afterward, we all ate wonderful gumbo, shrimp and pork pasta, pesto bread and other goodies prepared by the Raintree chefs. It’s the second meal I eaten of theirs and that might just be my new favorite family food away from family.
The Santa was as artificial as my tree, but he got me thinking about the word “fake.” In the nearly 18 years I lived in L.A., I heard a lot of people call the city and its people fake. I always defended L.A. from that term thinking they meant it was a city of lies. I’ve lived in lots of cities and L.A. has no monopoly on lies, though it does run on dreams and fantasies. But a fantasy is not a lie and dreams can be realities that haven’t happened yet, so I defended L.A.
Watching the “fake” Santa hand out gifts to girls whose families have fallen out from under them, what I saw was very real. I saw a community trying to provide for people born without the advantages a woman like me with a happy childhood can take for granted. I saw the people of Raintree, who make what people make when they work for a non-profit, dedicating themselves to bringing joy to children. I saw Santa, who was as excited as a kid at Christmas about giving gifts to foster kids. He may have been a “fake” Santa, but his generosity of spirit was very real.
That’s when it hit me – when people call L.A. fake, maybe they’re not calling them liars and backstabbers, they’re calling them fake as opposed to “real.” Ah, now this I have seen plenty of in L.A. Beyond the stereotypes of the fake boobs, Botox, bleached teeth and hair, there is something about L.A. that discourages people from truly connecting – to themselves, to others, to their community.
Maybe it’s because people are so competitive in an industry where only a precious few people make enough to live in their chosen field. Maybe its because people don’t come to L.A. to be “real,” they come to get rich and famous. It’s the gold rush all over again.
Or maybe, like with any ex-boyfriend, L.A. is the ex I broke up with and now say, “See, I’m better off without him.” All I know is I’ve attended lots of parties and premieres in L.A. where people were too busy “working the room” to have fun. In New Orleans, people are too busy having fun to care about working rooms.
So, my tree may be as fake as that Santa, but the joy it brings is just as real as the joy he brought the girls. And maybe that’s why I always defended L.A., because the movies may be fantasies, the people who make them might even jerks, but movies bring me real joy and for that, I’m grateful. Really.