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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree

This week's article in the Journal

“Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?”  That’s an often-heard question this time of year.   I saw a few homes with trees up well before Thanksgiving this year.   Of all the Christmas memories of childhood, I think my favorites are the beautiful trees my daddy would find and cut down for our family room.  Well… most of them were beautiful.  There were a few Charlie Brown trees along the way, but mostly they were perfect.  Always a highly-fragrant cedar tree, with the old-fashioned colored lights.  I loved those old-timey lights that we use to have before the miniature lights came out.  They were so heavy that my daddy had to attach them lower on the branches of the cedar trees, as the frail ends  couldn’t hold the weight.  Besides, we needed the tips of the branches free for the tinsel, or “icicles”, as we called them back then.  I remember my grandaddy sitting in the command seat, navigating placement of the icicles to be sure that not one tiny branch went unadorned.

One year, we ended up with a tree that was so large it covered the double-windows!  We didn’t have enough ornaments, so it was somewhat sparsely decorated.  There’s an old black-and-white picture of my snaggletooth self, standing proudly in front of the mammoth tree, with my hair in sponge curlers.  We were so proud of our giant tree!!  (tried to find the pic for the blog, but no luck with that)

Our family room was on the back of the house, which meant that the travelers up and down Broad Street were not able to see our tree.  One year Mamma Lorene, my dad’s mom, gave us one of those fabulous trees made out of aluminum.  We proudly assembled the tree, added the fuchsia-colored balls, and put it in front of the double windows in the dining room, on the front side of the house.  There was this lamp that sat in the floor, with a rotating plastic disk of different colors.  The disk would turn slowly, and the colors would fade from one to the other.  I much preferred the live tree with the multicolored lights, but was delighted to have TWO trees in our house each year. 

As the years went by, some of the ornaments were lost or broken.  Seems that we always managed to hang onto the ones my brother and I made at school, and those were hung each year with love.  At some point, we swapped out the chunky lights that I loved for the newfangled miniature lights that were becoming so popular.  It was the end of an era, and even though the tiny blinking lights were beautiful, I’ve always been partial to the old chunky ones. 
The first Christmas tree after I got married in 1980 was a special tree.  Not a cedar tree like I had grown up with, but some kind of pine tree that we cut at a tree farm.  With little money to spend for decorations, I opted for DIY ornaments, and our tree was covered with homemade felt snowmen and clothes-pin reindeer, a few fake red apples, and some candy canes.  But there were lots of colored mini-lights!!!   And because it was our very first tree together, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 

There have been many trees since then.  I remember scoring a really expensive fake tree after the holidays one year.  It was perfectly-shaped, and looked better than some of the real ones we had used in the past.  I was so excited to have this flame-retardant tree, meaning we could put it up earlier, leave it up longer, and it also meant I could put my favorite chunky lights on it!  I went to the store and bought a gazillion of them, and put them on our new tree.  Couldn’t wait for the hubby to get home and commend me for our old-fashioned Christmas tree.  To my great disappointment, he made me take them off, and return them to the store.  What with being a fireman and all, he only saw the fire risk, and not the beautiful ambience I was attempting to achieve.  So I had to undecorate the tree, remove the lights, and take them back.  I pouted for days, and only half-heartedly redecorated. But by then, it was Whitney’s third Christmas, and she was at such a fun age I couldn’t stay mad for long.  

The year that she was in first grade was the first Christmas that she and I lived alone, and we carried that fake Christmas tree with us during several moves through the years.  We had a tradition on tree-decorating day – there was an old VHS Disney tape of Christmas songs.  We’d listen to it every year while we decorated.  When she was in high school, the old tree finally died, and I replaced it with a tall, skinny tree that she laughed at, but once decorated, admitted it was a really pretty tree. 

Nowadays, it is the eyes of my grandchildren that sparkle at Christmastime.  One of my favorite spots to photograph them is in front of a Christmas tree.  Last year found me feeling a bit overwhelmed, and not really interested in much holiday fanfare.  I didn’t put up my tree until the week the kids were out of school…   which was one week before Christmas!  Normally, I’m very persnickety about the ornaments being placed just so, but not so much last year.  Because of my indoor kitties, I use a small 4’ tree on a table, in an effort to keep them away from it.  Last year, though I kept my precious, breakable treasures safely packed away, I let the kids decorate the tree.  They took turns using the step-stool to reach the higher branches, but 90% of the ornaments are on the lower half of the tree.  A job obviously done by children.  But… the joy I was lacking crept back into my heart as I watched them decorate “their” tree all by themselves.  They were so proud, and the occasion was, of course, marked by many photographs and videos.  Because the tree is so small, when I got around to taking it down (don’t even ASK!) I just picked it up and set it in an extra bedroom.  Still decorated. 

So now it is Christmas 2015!!!  My little tree was delivered from the extra bedroom to its place in the living room.  Still decorated from last year.  It was my intention to undo the kids’ handiwork and re-decorate it with at least a little symmetry in mind.  But every time I reach to take something off, I am reminded of how much fun they had decorating it last year, and how excited they will be to see that I am using it that way again this year. 

Yes, Christmas trees are my favorite part of the holiday.  And one of my favorite sayings about Christmas is this:  It’s not about what’s under your Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.  I hope you will share special moments with special people around a tree this season. 

So, let me ask - have you put up your Christmas tree yet?  Just remember....

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