I have sort of a thing for Christmas trees. Not an obsessive thing – more of a nostalgic thing.

I usually insist on a real tree despite my cat’s mischievous nature and my tendency to leave it up for too long. This year, though, there was no Christmas tree. Not because I didn’t want one or because I didn’t try, but because I let the frugal procrastinator win.

You see the story really begins with last year’s tree:

It was about a week before Christmas, maybe even two, and it was raining a lot. So much so that I think the teenagers who manned the Christmas tree lot down the street for me got tired of standing around out there. To me it was miraculous – I went to the store to buy groceries and as I passed the tree lot I noticed a handwritten sign that read “Free.”

The freshness, look or height of the tree didn’t matter. It was free! I popped that thing on top of the car and the matter was settled.

So this year I expected and hoped for a similar outcome. I stalked the lot the week before Christmas, but trees were still priced at about $25 or more. No, no, no. I’d wait.

But I waited too long and as I pulled into the parking lot on Christmas Eve, there was not a tree in sight! Where? Where did they go? Could they have possibly sold them all? Thrown them away maybe?

I circled the lot, thinking I’d see the tip of a tree or even a branch lingering by the dumpsters.

No trashed trees. No free trees. Not even a tree to buy.

I went to a few other places I thought trees could be, but nothing.

By the time I gave up on the tree, I discovered that not only was I without the tree but also without any Christmas dinner. I had promised myself and my mom – who flew out form New Jersey to see me – a small Christmas feast complete with stuffing, candied sweet potatoes and turkey.

I think my mom might have been relieved we weren’t cooking, but I was disappointed. No tree, no stuffing – what kind of Christmas was this?

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As I scrambled to find an open restaurant and my mom remained calm, I realized that I was putting myself through unnecessary stress. A stress that goes back to that thought that everything needs to be perfect and that I need to be perfect.

I didn’t need to do anything to make Christmas perfect. My mom came out to visit me. That might not be a big deal for a lot of people, but for my mom and me it is. Before last week, she hadn’t flown on an airplane in 30 years and she’s never been to the West Coast.

She traveled nearly 3,000 miles, overcame her fear of heights and her worries that her plane would go down not to see California, but to see me – her little girl. She didn’t care about what our Christmas looked like. Honestly, she probably didn’t even care it was Christmas. What she cared about was spending time with me.

So, instead of packing our week with the usual touristy checklist, we talked and talked and talked.

We watched movies, crime shows and caught up with the Gilmore Girls. We drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of junk food. We laughed and we yelled and we cried.

By the time she left it felt like we reclaimed the bond we once had – the bond that had been shaken by adolescence and outsiders. We had come full circle.

No tree needed.

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow her on Twitter at @RiaSestito or email her at msestito@napanews.com.

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Public Safety Reporter

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She covers breaking news as well as crime and courts. Maria came to the Napa Valley Register in 2015 after working at as a reporter and photographer at The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC. S