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I love Christmas trees. I know, I know. Everyone who loves Christmas loves Christmas trees. But I really love Christmas trees. I didn’t have one last year and it pretty much killed my Christmas spirit. Frequently during finals week I found myself sitting in the cold staring at the cathartic Rockefeller Center’s tree, losing myself in the blurring lights and colossal ornaments. So when October rolled around I was pretty stoked to get my Tannenbaum on.

Everything I used to decorate my Christmas tree area came from dear old Duane Reade. I bought this nifty potted, pre-lit tree for under $20, bought more lights for $5, spent about $10 on ornaments because I’m a nutjob and needed all the ornaments, $4 for gift boxes to put under said tree, and of course $4 for fake cotton snow. There was one problem with decorating my Christmas tree in October: no ornament hooks.

I searched every Duane Reade I passed during my day and no one had any hooks. I scoured the Christmas aisle, so sure I was missing them because what kind of monster would sell ornaments without ornament hooks? But each time I asked an employee about ornament hooks I’d get a Judgmental Joe/Judy narrowing their eyes at me and saying “Uh…it’s October.” My argument might as well have fallen on Ebeneezer Scrooge’s pre-Ghosts of Christmas ears.

One particular night after a horrible day, I was determined to decorate my Christmas tree to lift my gloomy spirit. I futilely checked my Duane Reade one more time. Then I turned to my frequent life-saver, the 24-hour Pathmark a block away from my apartment. No ornament hooks. But there in the midst of the seasonal aisle I was inspired to make my own ornament hooks. How hard could it be? Get some wire, bend it a bit, thread the ornament, and voila! My school supplies-obsessed self realized what I was describing was simply a paperclip.

So yes, I spent the next days bending paperclips and hanging my ornaments little by little. Turns out bending and shaping wire when wearing nail tips is actually fairly difficult. As I hung each paperclipped ornament I realized that just like this tree, nothing about this New York City/grad school journey has gone how I planned. But there I was, in my cozy apartment, the night before a full day of interning and class, perfectly at home – much like my adorable Christmas tree on its window sill.

The result of Operation Tannenbaum in all its glory

The result of Operation Tannenbaum in all its glory