It is 5 AM on Saturday morning and I am wide awake. I’ve been nursing a flu the past 2 days and crashed as soon as I got off work yesterday. Sleeping at 7 PM on a Friday night and waking up 8 hours after is a dreadful way to start the weekend. (It could also be remnants of jetlag from 2 weeks ago. It is, after all, peak time in Honolulu right now.) But I really wouldn’t have been in the mood to go out last night anyway. It is way too cold out. After a week of being so unseasonably warm, the temperature has since dipped 50 degrees. It is now 10 degrees below freezing outside. I had 5 layers of clothing on me yesterday — undershirt + buttoned-down + vest + coat + scarf — along with gloves and ear muffs and I was still shivering walking to and from work. Spending time indoors drinking coffee in undeniably wintry days like this is a good way to be. Besides, I’m still gushing over Nicholas and wouldn’t mind spending more time with him.

I’ve always had a fake tree growing up. My family would hoist this 8-foot extravaganza right smack in our living room on the first day of December and adorn it with collected ornaments, some heirloom, lush tinsel and bright lights. (Growing up, I always thought our home had the most amazing tree.) When I moved here so many years ago and stayed with my aunts, their house in Queens had a similar tree, still fake and as amazing. I have since moved out and into a studio that barely has enough space for me and all my dust collectors. Christmases swept in and out and I have always wondered about decorating my apartment. (My aunts even got me a fake wreath one year which, unknown to them, I didn’t even bother hanging.) That wonder soon turned into yet another holiday frustration and onto another forgotten resolution for the new year’s new season. Until this one.

Tim and I were walking in the Village last Friday. As usual, I was lumbering around drunk after a few drinks (because I’m such a cheap date) and blurted out how I’ve always thought about having a Christmas tree as we passed by a streetcorner that sold cut firs. Unblinkingly, he replied that I should get one. He had all the ornaments anyway (since he used to have a house back in Atlanta and he and his ex-hubby would gay a tree up every year. The tree ornaments, along with everything else, were split after they separated.) We walked a block over from my apartment that Sunday to the corner where cut trees were lined up for sale. (I wish getting my first tree were as rustic as how one of my friends from Minneapolis got hers; she and her hubby walked into a tree farm and cut their own tree. But this is NYC. There are no tree farms; only tree corners.) We settled on a 6-ft balsam fir from Nova Scotia. Nicholas (as I’ve named my fir) has been sitting in the corner of my (ever more crowded) studio since(, 2 feet away from my bed and 2 feet away from my dinner table).

I am such a newbie to the fresh tree circuit. Googling this whole new scene has given me some conclusions: buying the trees early in the season is smart since the good ones always get snatched up early on; keeping it watered is essential since leaving a tree dry allows it to sap and wither quicker; the frasier firs spruce up nicer but the balsam firs smell better (though they shed more too); adding on sugar (as Tim suggested) or aspirin to the water solution does nothing more for the tree. (Did the trees get sugar in the Canadian forest?!) More importantly, having this tree has renewed this holiday for me. I’ve (again) come to realize that this holiday really is about bringing people together. Having a tree, for starters, really isn’t meant to be done alone. First of all, I could have never carried a 6-ft tree into my apartment, let alone hoist it onto its stand and screw it still by myself. The even better part, decorating it, is always more wonderful shared. I look at the tree and see so much of Tim’s history on it with his many ornaments hanging on the needles — a set of gold balls he used to own with his ex-husband, his name handwritten on a snowman, his old puppy’s pic on a red ribbon, a brown gingerbread house he got in Europe while on tour for a show, a silver snowflake from his mom from Alabama. I’ve yet to add my own and am hopeful of sharing and building memories with him, hung up on a tree and beyond. The best parts about the tree, as Tim says and with whom I agree with, are the lights on it and the gifts under it. Tim came over Thursday night and spent the night with me when I told him I was feeling sick. I came home last night and saw that he had put the lights on the tree along with some gifts for me at its feet. This is the first night (or morning) that the tree has been lit. Resplendent in white cascading light, it casts a warm glow over my studio as well as on the wrapped boxes underneath as Sarah McLachlan sings Noel off the IDock in the background. I can’t help but smile. This season, of which the tree is a symbol, is so much about bringing people together and sharing with them. I can’t wait to share this Christmas moment with Tim as he comes over tonight. (Hopefully, I’ll have some gifts for him too by that time.)