When I was in elementary school, my class did some sort of project that inspired my mom to hot glue multicolored puff-balls to the tips of some huge pine cones she had collected long before my brother and I were born. Years ago, back when her hair was still long and her face wasn’t so weathered, she went to California and saw the redwoods; the massive pine cones were the relics of the trip. This art endeavor of hers actually went decently—as she is a scientist with little interest in the humanities or art, I was expecting a semi-fiasco—and from then on, these strange “Christmas trees” with their multicolored, fuzzy “lights” were carefully stored every season, and then placed in the downstairs bathroom each winter for the rest of my Clarkston years.
It was only last Christmas, or perhaps the one before it, that she gave up the habit and put something more aesthetically pleasing in their usual places. I thought the cones were silly and rather ugly, and so didn’t comment on their absence; it’s only now, with a breathable space of 800 miles between us that I wonder why she made the change. My mother is especially fond of routine, but I am not; just one more thing that makes me foreign to her.