I’m thankful that life is long enough we can make a few 180 degree turns.

I remember fondly trips to Sears with my family as a kid. The tool department, the appliances in long, gleaming rows, the Garanimals color-coordinated clothes. There was a candy counter where on special days mom would get us the sugared “fruit” slices in electric green, red, yellow, and orange.

The visit I remember best was the monumental December when Dad and Mom decided we were going to get an artificial tree for Christmas, and the whole family went to pick it out. I was around 8, and already had a deep love of the art of illusion and fakery: stage props, Halloween makeup, magic tricks.

Sears had a forest of trees, assembled and decorated, surrounded by ornaments and glitz.

I remember the cool Texas evening as mom and dad hauled the giant box to the car. It was a new era!

Helping assemble the tree when we got it home was a thrill. The central wood pole had these angled holes for each branch, color coded so the wrapped wire branches oh-so-naturally tapered up from the wide base branches to the narrower tip of the tree. Once fluffed into shape, the tree was full and lush, and we tucked light strings into the bluegreen plastic needles and hung the ornaments, garland, and finishing tinsel, which I applied in great, artistic handfuls. It was like a sparkling waterfall of shiny holiday happiness.

Over the years I graduated from tree assembly apprentice to master, and eventually I’d be in complete charge, getting the tree from the attic, assembling it, and supervising the decorations. I loved this job.

As an adult I realized the only way to do Christmas was to have a live tree. I enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing my folks old fake, but secretly prided myself on my better taste. “Why can’t they put in a little more effort,” I’d think. But of course each year there was less effort, eventually the full-size fake tree too much, the Christmas displays smaller and smaller until they disappeared altogether, maybe a Poinsetta plant on the table. Then, of course, my parents disappeared as well. This is the way, I guess.

Years passed. And the craziest thing happened.

In my defense, being the designated Christmas adult is a lot of work. Jay grew up with Hannukah (and Christmas envy), which left him enthusiastically wanting a tree, but didn’t train him on how the Christmas sausage is made. It’s been my job to drag the family to the Christmas tree lot, get us to agree on a tree, haul it home, the two adults shuffle the thing up the stairs, we try to align the thing in the stand so it’s more or less upright and the bald spot is turned to the wall. I cajole everyone into helping decorate. (See above, spouse has no previous experience and might try to put on ornaments before the lights, when any skilled celebrant knows it’s lights, garlands, ornaments, and then tinsel if applicable, in that order please!)

All month I water it (the tiny water basin is no match for a thirsty, dying tree), fuss about the dropped needles, clean up the spills and worry about water stains on the floor and the fire risk of having a dried-out pine tree in the living room. The last few years our city has stopped picking up whole trees to be composted, so in January they have to be dismembered on the sidewalk, sawed apart and stuffed into the green bin.

Also as my kids have morphed into teens they’re less enthusiastic about being dragged to the tree lot. And the last few years each Christmas I think, “wouldn’t it be easier to unpack it from the garage?”

I kept these shameful thoughts secret. Then recently, as I fretted about when everyone in our overscheduled family could be force-marched to the tree lot, I let slip to Jay my dream of a lightweight fake we can put up like an umbrella. He and the kids would never go for that, right? “You should do it the way you want, you’re the one doing all the Christmas work! If it makes it easier, do it.”

In shock, with some guilt but also some glee, I snuck off and procured a fake tree. The new ones have hinged arms so you don’t have to put each one in place, you just fold them out, but you still have to fluff the branches and make sure it’s full and realistic. I bought, assembled, and flung a tree skirt around the suspiciously lightweight tree stand while the kids were at school. Both were surprised we got the tree without them, but I reminded them that they didn’t want to go last year, and that the decorating is the fun part.

I don’t know that either of them has noticed that it’s fake! If they have noticed, they haven’t registered any complaint. I’m sure they’d be bummed if there wasn’t a glowing green blob in the corner in December, at a minimum for somewhere to stash the presents, but its fakeness doesn’t seem to matter a tiny bit.

Also, so you know I haven’t completely given up, I strung up the twinkle lights in the yard, tree to tree with my custom bamboo light pole. It’s not like I’ve totally given up, all in one step. But it’s probably fair to say that the sinking into the easier, simpler way has begun.

But this small act has felt wonderful. I feel a kind of elation about it. Freedom. A deep breath. This thing I’ve always done, always felt I had to do, I can just change it up.

Let’s make this easier. Let’s be kinder to ourselves. Let’s enjoy the lights and savor the delicious irony of how much our opinions can change.

It’s made me realize that possibly the best gift Jay and I give each other is permission to become some version of our parents at times. And more and more. There’s so much good in where we come from. And the eccentric, annoying bits? It seems inevitable that we inherit some flavors of that as well, so we might as well welcome it.

It’s a whole new era.