Meet Iva

I have a confession. I’ve got a fetish. With…Iva Fetish. AKA, my Christmas tree. I love her. For those of you who have not had the extreme fortune to witness her glory in person, my apologies. Come over for some nice roasted chicken, goofballs and a glass of wine. Sit in wonder as long as you like. Or, take a gander at the photo below.

My Christmas Tree
Meet Iva

That’s Iva. As with anything that colorful, Iva’s got a … history.

I come by my love of Christmas (and my love of shiny, sparkly things) honestly – my mom loves Christmas. The cooking, the family and the decorations. You know all those awesome moving chotskies the Avon catalog sells? She bought every single one. Every single year. Until we had them all. We had trees and calendars and candlesticks and snow globes that moved and ducks that sang. She would place them around the house with care, and we were always so excited for Darlene the Avon lady to show up, with her musky perfume and holiday catalog, to see what would appear for the next year.

Since 1998, the Wal-Mart holiday bears have also been part of the party – every year mom buys a boy and a girl, alternating big and mini. They used to fit on the back of the couch. My brother in law got quite a bit of heat, in fact, when he used one as a missile to terrorize the cat. (She deserved it, in his defense.) But as the years grew, so did the bear collection – and when my dad remodeled the living room, he built them shelves. Sure, they house picture frames the rest of the year, but we all know what they’re REALLY for. My aunt made my mom holiday swags, and each year she would teeter on the edge of a kitchen chair putting them up (and at times, using Dad’s staple gun to keep them in place.) The only time of the year we EVER had a tablecloth was when she pulled out the Christmas decorations.

The star of the show, for us kids anyway, was always the tree. While my mom would clean and pull out and decorate everything else herself, the tree was always a family affair. She would put it up on a Saturday afternoon and string on the lights. Then, after a big pot roast dinner, she would turn on Dolly Parton’s Home for Christmas and let us go to town on the ornaments. (We wore out two cassette tapes before Dolly finally came out on CD.) She and dad would sit, sipping cocktails and occasionally commenting that we “missed a spot” or “hang that one up front.” Nate and I would chuck icicles on the tree and Nicole would gently place until we chided her to “hurry up, it was time to watch.” With our hot chocolate in hand, we turned off all the lights and watched the tree for hours, the five of us. The first year we were out of college, after my mom and dad separated, mom decorated it herself. Nicole and I let it be known that was NOT acceptable, and every year since, we’ve dropped everything going on the Sunday after Thanksgiving weekend so we can go home, eat a big dinner, and listen to Dolly as we decorate. (The boys won’t allow her at our houses – Dolly, that is, not Mom.)

The tree at mom's
Mom decorates and David hassles - typical

So for our first Christmas, I bought a cute, 4 foot LED tree on clearance at Bed Bath and Beyond for $5. We put on the Christmas music (TSO) and “put up” the tree. It took all of five minutes. I stood there, looking at it and thinking about never waking up Christmas morning with my brother right next to my face, telling him “go watch The Christmas Story one more time” so we could sleep, no more presents strung so far under the tree they covered half the floor, no more catching mom and dad sneaking loving and satisfied grins as we squealed our thanks…and I started sobbing.

David had no idea what was going on.

I tried to explain, through tears, that “This isn’t a Christmas tree. I want a REAL tree.” He told me we couldn’t have a real tree because it was a fire hazard and I said “NO! I want a real sized tree and I want Dolly and hot chocolate and icicles.” What I wanted was a REAL Christmas – and I hadn’t thought, up to that point, how to carve out that tradition as a newly married couple.

So at 8:30 at night, with the stores closing in half an hour, my husband raced us out to Lowe’s. And Home Depot. And, finally, Menards. With five minutes left before the store closed, I saw it – $80, on sale, the fullest white tree I’d ever seen. I always wanted a white tree – I mean, it’s fake anyway, and the ornaments look better. David took one look at my face and said “I’ll go get a ladder.”

And then I found…the skirt. Teal with peacock feathers made of glitter and sequins, I squealed like a nine year old at a Miley Cyrus concert. David, thrilled that I had stopped sobbing, said what any husband says in a moment of panic and later regrets for a lifetime – “If it makes you happy, you get whatever you want.” That led to brightly colored ornaments of purple, hot pink and teal, glittery and spangly and sparkly like a disco ball. A tree my dear sister considers an abomination and, this year, termed a “drag queen.” And any good queen needs a rocking name – so Iva Fetish was born.

Tree skirt
Notice the glittery peacock feathers that started it all

And my sweet husband? Three years later, I’m setting up the tree (I let him do it the first time – it took him three hours. It takes me one. ) and I asked him “Baby, with all the crap you’ve gotten from all your man – and woman – friends about this tree, if you could change it now, would you?” And he says – like any good husband who knows better – “No baby. It makes you so happy every year. It was worth every penny and every insult.”

Since he so kindly indulges my crazy tree, I wanted something nice for David to decorate. He had a very special village growing up, hand-painted by his grandfather, so I thought I would buy him a village to set up and get excited about. My sister, friend Kate and I went to Kohl’s the day after Christmas, and the perfect opportunity was staring me in the face – 70% off the villages! Being the bargain shopper I am, I thought “This is a perfect opportunity not just to start a village, but to stock up!” So I bought a skating pond. And a fire station. And a movie theater, diner, row house, shopping center, pub and winery. And people. And a fountain. I was dragging three – yes, THREE – carts through the store. People were staring. Once woman finally had the guts to comment on my full carts, and I said “70% off – why WOULDN’T I buy all the buildings I want?” This year we rounded out with a church and a school. Next year, if I want more buildings, I’ll have to expand – as you can see below, we have tapped out the space.

My Christmas village
My Christmas village

I haven’t quite turned into my mother yet – the tree and the village are about the extent of my Christmas decorations, save a couple of candle holders and a wreath – but I have MANY years of after Christmas sales to stock up. You can find me at Kohl’s – I’ll be the one with three carts.

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