Pottery Barn is ready for Christmas. And I feel unworthy.

The tree on the front of the Pottery Barn Christmas catalog is decorated with gold and silver cameos, and swathed with gold silk ribbons that coo the politically correct "Happy Holidays."

(It's Christmas, doo-doo heads. Say it after me, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. Why are people still afraid to say "Merry Christmas?" I love saying it- Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. If it's alright to build a mosque in New York City, why can't Pottery Barn wish me a Merry Christmas??????)

But I digress.

The decorated tree on the front of the Pottery Barn catalog should come with a warning. Something like,

"Warning: any attempt to emulate this tree could result in serious injury to one's self esteem."


"Do not try this at home without professional decorator on hand."


"Trees in catalog may look better than they appear in your living room."

When was the last time you looked closely at one of their designs? It's photo-trickery. It's like taking a picture of the Thanksgiving turkey before it's ripped to shreds. Of course it's going to look nice at first. But on the days leading up to Christmas, my house looks more like the picked over carcass.

But I love Christmas catalogs. It makes me think of what could be.

Under the Pottery Barn tree are presents wrapped so tightly, you know the wrapper had a "wrapping room" covered in plush carpets, piped in Christmas music, plenty of counter space, ribbon and paper on rollers, and a swivelly chair to prevent backaches. And plenty of egg nog.

On the PT tree, the perky ornaments dangle on the end of perky branches, and the ornaments are never random but always have a theme, like music, or fruit, or animals. The branches have neat piles of fake snow on them, faking an outdoorsy look.

There is a gilded birdcage hanging in the corner, but there's no bird in it. Oh no, that would involve mess, and life. Guess what's in the birdcage?

You got it. Perfectly wrapped mini-gifts.

The stockings in the Pottery Barn catalog are always hung by the chimney with care, pillows are always stacked in welcoming piles on the floor, signaling to visitors, "Here, sit here! There may be no more seats, but these pillows are so expensive, they can double as a couch!"

Even the rooms have holiday themes. Bed linens and accessories have holly and reindeer all over them. Plates in the kitchen tout the eight tiny reindeer, and wine bottles wear cute little knit hats and scarves. There is even a wine stopper with a tiny clock on it, counting down the days to Christmas. Sigh.

(I am thinking of decorating my upstairs for Christmas this year. But if we're gonna sleep on elf and holly sheets, and wipe toothpaste on Rudolph's antlers, visitors are sure as hell going to see them. So a house tour will be required of all those who stop by).

Reality is different than pictures, isn't it?

Every year our tree screams for water, and no one listens, so the branches won't hold up the heavy ornaments. Our ornaments are the hoboes of the ornament world - a motley group handmade in elementary school, bought on Hawaiian vacation, or found in flea markets. The theme? Disentropy.

The stocking holders are pitted from ocean air, and stockings have holes from moths and dog teeth. Presents under the tree looked as if they were wrapped under gunpoint. Plates don't always match, and Christmas mugs are always somewhere, but we're never sure. I usually find them around Easter.

I especially love the morning after pictures in catalogs. Everyone is comfortable and smiling on the couch or the floor, with legs pulled up under them and feet covered in matching slippers. They are holding steaming hot cups of something in holiday mugs, and there is a roaring fire in the fireplace (but no firewood in sight).

Presents are being unwrapped (but there is no wrapping on the floor), and the trained golden retriever with a holiday collar is laying obediently on his dog bed (which is inscribed with his name, in case he ever gets up in the middle of the night and forgets which bed is his).

Our morning after is chaos and smiles and mess. Wrapping everywhere, drinks spilling, a million things to take out of those little twisties (no doubt invented by a sadist). Arguments over who got more, and whether we should watch a parade, a football game or "A Christmas Story" for the ten zillionth time.

The dog can be found stealing small objects to hoard in his lair, and the fire is so hot it's singeing the stockings, so they have to get taken down. My husband is taking a nap, and it's only 8 a.m. Guests are expected to arrive at 11, so we have our Yuletide argument over who actually does more to prepare.

Merry Christmas, Pottery Barn. Mine is more fun.