12/07/2012 10:39 am ET Updated Feb 06, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a Pink Christmas

I'm dreaming of a Pink Christmas.

I'm not sure why I don't "do holidays" well. Whenever one comes up on the calendar's horizon, I feel antsy. Like a lot of parents, I place a whole boatload of expectations on myself, trying to make sure the kids have the right set of experiences and that they build the Pinterest-worthy memories of a well-decorated childhood. If rickrack and gingham aren't involved, there are problems. If there aren't theme cupcakes, an "Elf on the Shelf" and a hand-knit Advent calendar, I've failed. The children will remember growing up as a long episode of Hoarders-meets-Intervention, and they'll commiserate with each other about their decidedly non-idyllic formative years.

Even with all the worry, I accomplish little. I spin my wheels, getting nothing made or baked or crafted. And then, amazingly, we still have lovely holidays -- usually, no thanks to me. We pull something last-minute out of a hat, and sure enough, December 26th or February 15th comes, and we've got happy stories and photos of smiling faces. I just always feel like I'm doing it wrong.

I haven't always had this crisis of parenting-confidence. The last few years of personal and economic struggle, however, have rent my SuperMom cloak. We gave up our home in the suburbs and sold our only car when the recession hit.

Our first Thanksgiving after the economic collapse involved a pot of pinto beans and cornbread, not turkey. Halloween has become decidedly more DIY. Easter, the past two years, has meant nature-colored eggs from our backyard chickens -- green from the two of our hens, pink and blue from two others. And Christmas didn't feel right to me until we let go of the annual tradition of buying a large live tree from a commercial lot, and instead, brought out the "joke" pink tree from storage and gave it its rightful place in the middle of our joyous, thrift store-furnished livingroom. We made ornaments that suited it: gnomes, stars, butterflies, and doves... and slowly, we changed the way Christmas looked in our home. It's not Pinterest-perfect, but it's unusual and magical, and it captures the way we live in a way no other holiday decoration does.

At least I can say I came by a predilection for pink Christmas trees honestly. One of my cherished, late great-grandmothers, Ola Parish of Ardmore, Oklahoma, always had "Pink Christmas." We spent most of our holidays at her house. My great-grandmother smelled like Cashmere Bouquet powder and had rouged cheeks and blue hair. She double-toasted her bread and ate it like it was the most delicious thing she'd ever had. She fed me broken pieces of bacon in my high chair, and I still remember that feeling of easy, generous love. And her Christmases were defiantly, elegantly pink -- no red and green to be found.

These last few winters when we haven't had a car have been hard at times. After swaddling my pupae in their respective woolies, I prepare myself for the thirty-degree bike rides: military-issue parka, check; silver-glitter fleece-lined moonboots, check; Optimus Prime gloves, check. Pajamas underneath, naturally. And then the two mile haul to school drop off when I'm under-caffeinated, in freezing mist made tolerable by the crowd of kids on crossing-guard duty who shout, "It's the Bicycle Lady!" And after that, choosing a route on the way home that takes me on a woodsmoke-scented path under a canopy of yellow leaves and dark red berries.

And for the last few years, when nightfall comes on the day after Thanksgiving, we put up our pink Christmas tree and I make a batch of bacon for Ola Parish. Just because it's not "traditional" doesn't mean it's not Tradition.