On a mad dash through LuLu at Khalidiyah Mall to find pecans for my contribution to the Thanksgiving potluck, I spotted Christmas decor. Because I was still preparing for Thanksgiving, I almost decided not to snatch up the few Christmas items that caught my eye, but just as I was passing through it hit me. This LuLu, which was amply stocked with western holiday decor, services a population of expats that’s way larger than their stock. So, I made a u-turn and quickly put four boxes of traditional candy canes and three Christmas stockings in my cart. Still on the Christmas prowl, I noticed Christmas trees on display in the main aisle and took a peek at them before I left. They were all decorated with multicolored lights, foil fringe and random ornaments. At a glance, I immediately knew I wouldn’t be getting our Christmas tree ornaments from there but I still looked at the Christmas trees themselves. They were all sad and short. “Naaa…”, I said to myself. We won’t be buying anything else for Christmas from LuLu.
At Thanksgiving dinner I mentioned that the hunt was on to find the perfect Christmas tree. This is the first Christmas that my 19 month old can really participate so I wanted to execute well. A friend mentions to me that Home Center sells half trees; a Christmas tree that is vertically cut in half and can be affixed to the wall. Brilliant, I thought. That would be excellent for us. We live in a quaint space so half a tree in a vacant corner would be perfect. I left excited to have gotten the tip and eager to go fetch myself half a Christmas tree.
The whole family…mommy, daddy and baby get it in gear and head to Dalma Mall to buy half a tree. As we approached Home Center, I could see Christmas trees on display throughout the store. They had regular, artificial pine trees and some that were “snow dipped” with white paint on the tips of the branches. They were pretty. The display trees were themed. There was the “peacock tree” with feathers and ornaments in jewel tone colors like purple, turquoise and fucshia. Then, there was the classic design adorned with red bulbs that had a green and gold plaid pattern on them with light specks of glitter. They also had a “winter wonderland” tree that was full of light blue and silver ornaments. It looked like a cool breeze. All of these trees were tastefully decorated. This was more my speed and I was ready to buy. We never did see a half tree while perusing so I asked an employee where they were. The gentlemen, who most likely was from Pakistan, glared at me as if I was crazy and said, “No madam. It is not half tree. All trees like this”, as he motions to the displays I had just admired. I asked again to be sure, “so, you don’t sell a half tree?” This time, he smiled and let out a bit of laughter before saying, “No madam”.
Okay, cool. I had to accept that the tip I received wasn’t accurate and move on to plan B. I’d just have to get one of those lovely full trees that I had admired. As I took my place in front of the 2 inch platform where the display trees were, my neck was on a slooooow swivel. I was happily checking out every tree, assessing how fabulous it was and unconsciously looking for the best one when it happened….My gaze fell upon my husband. It was a jolt back to reality. I knew that he was more than likely still shopping with the budget of the mysterious half tree in mind. That budget would put us at the very bottom of the whole Christmas tree market. To avoid completely over shooting the budget, I asked him what he thought. He pointed to the tree right in front of us and said, this one is fine. It was the moat economically priced tree in the store. If it’s star topper had eyes, they would have been staring into mines. It was short. He flipped the tag and saw that it was on sale. With that tree being priced so well, I thought one slightly taller, at six feet, would be manageable. As I said that aloud, he continued reading the tag and said, “this one is six feet”. Huh!?! What!?! My hopes were dashed again but this time, I was really pissy about it. I’m 5 feet and 7 inches tall. How in the world can a Christmas tree, with a star topper that stops at my hairline while sitting on a 2 inch platform display be 6 feet tall!?! I was livid and refused to buy a short azz Christmas tree. So, we left Dalma Mall with nothing.
After a visit to Carrefour and Ace, only to find trees the same height at a higher price, I ended up at home with pretty ornaments and no tree to hang them on. By morning, I got myself together and accepted the situation. The circumstances were such that, I’m in Muslim country shopping for an imported item on a modest budget. The disparity between the retail price of a Christmas tree in America and one in Abu Dhabi, that’s actually six feet tall is shameful. What’s even more shameful is that I had to take myself back to Dalma Mall and buy the same Christmas tree I had rejected the night before. This time though, my hubby wasn’t with me so I had the pleasure of lifting it into the car.
The box sat in our storage room for a few days before I found the time to put it up. But when I did, all of my earlier issues dissipated. As the tree went up and I fluffed it’s branches, I could see it start to take shape in our living room corner. I thought to myself, this is going to work out alright. Once the fluffing was done, I strung the lights on the tree and to really get into the Christmas spirit, I plugged it in to glow as I finished decorating. The lights come on. Oh hell naw!!! These are blue LED lights. In the split second of a flashing blue light, I’m mad again. I had done due diligence by asking not one but two Carrefour workers to confirm that I had white lights. They both said, with assurance, that I did. Blue lights clashed with the red, white and silver decor that I had. And they weren’t just blue lights. They were blue lights that blinked at various tempos. OMG! I was knee deep in the middle of decorating the tree and stopping to take down lights, repackage them and return them to the store the next day just seemed like too much. Besides, my husband reminded me that even though they didn’t match perfectly, our son would probably love them. I was angry but with that in mind, I decided to persevere and finish it. Once the tree was done, I added three equally spaced command hooks to my Ikea Expedit shelf and hung our stockings. Fireplaces are not common in the desert and we don’t have one so mamma had to improvise.
Through the search for a non-existent half tree, purchasing a short tree, the calamity of blinking blue lights and the stockings hanging from a shelf, I actually made the house look festive. Christmas decorating in the desert was indeed an experience but one I wouldn’t trade for the world. We had a great Christmas and the backdrop to it all wasn’t too bad.