Trees

When you’re in your twenties you can’t imagine not decorating for Christmas, especially if you’re the creative type. But I must confess that my Martha Stewart more-is-more gene has aged and I reached a point where I decided we’d get an artificial tree when I turned 60. Alas, my cut-down-a-live-tree-and-haul-it-home gene gave up the ghost when I was 58. Now our artificial Oakland pine quietly, contentedly adds growth rings year by year as it hibernates in the garage rafters.

The first year my mother was widowed I understood her not wanting to decorate for the holidays. But the next year Mom still wasn’t interested in putting up a Christmas tree. While I can understand it now, at the time I couldn’t bear the thought of her house not being decorated for yet another holiday.

We had recently returned, after seven years, to the community where I was born and raised, moving into a brand new housing development with lots of young couples with families. Any excuse for a party was a way of life for our neighborhood so a tree decorating party began to take shape. Hunting for the ugliest Christmas tree I could find, a pathetic, scraggly little tree, leaning abjectly against a chain link fence in front of an old drugstore was just the ticket. Neighbors from all over the cul-de-sac and cross streets came to create tacky handmade ornaments and colorful paper chains. A Santa-hatted Snoopy served as sentinel tree topper. Piling into our cars, we drove across town to Mom’s; spilling off the porch into the front yard, we rang her doorbell.  Initially puzzled at our presence, a few Christmas carols and the presentation of her very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree had her laughing with delight. Our goofy gift turned her mourning into dancing, a delight that continued throughout the season as she invited her neighbors in to see what her crazy kids were up to now.

This ancient Christmas memory was inspired by our only granddaughter, Judelyn, who is a cadet at West Point. She and one of the other cadets in her company resourcefully created a Christmas tree for his room out of a broom, strings of colored lights, small bauble ornaments, and a silvery star. She thought I’d appreciate their off-beat creation considering that we, along with her four brothers, decorated a pig skull with glitter glue and beads once upon a time – while their parents were out of town. Her dad is the cute little guy in the top picture next to her aunt Karen.

What role have Christmas trees played in your holiday traditions? When do they go up? Come down? How do they have to be decorated? Have your trees changed over the years? If so, what prompted that change? If you have a cherished ornament, describe it. If you were going to create a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, who would it be for?

Sure hoping you’ll share some holiday memories.

3 comments to Trees

  • I’m thinking of adding lights to a five foot tall wood sculpture…a minimal figure of sorts. I stopped getting trees when my daughter took over Christmas festivities at her house. It’s fine…it’s easier. Christmas is always a little tricky anyway. Keeping it simple seems to be a good thing for me.

  • Our son had surgery last week so we wanted to get our house decorated before the chaos of recovery. We bought our tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year and decorated that night. Our kids cannot imagine not cutting down a tree at the Home Depot parking lot. This year’s hunt was only about 10 minutes. My who couldn’t speak or eat the next day because of surgery at UCLA Medical Center on Monday, was singing carols and decorating the night previous. It’s my best Christmas memory so far this year.

    I can imagine one day not having a tree, but I suspect that will be long after my wife’s Martha Stewart gene has faded, the kids have all moved out and our dogs no longer need a toilet inside the house.

  • My mother and father had great photos of their first tree – a branch my Dad found and sprayed silver, decorated with shiny buttons and other household items. At twenty, when I had my own house (well, it was a tiny mother-in-law cottage I rented, but it was my first house) I decided that I liked the idea. I found a eucalyptus branch and sprayed it silver, then sprayed all the eucalyptus buttons I gathered red and reattached them to the branch. Still one of my favorite trees!
    Now I have a retro silver/aluminum tree, with the rotating colored light. My husband thinks it’s ugghh, but I have such great memories of all of my twenty plus cousins, their parents and more gathering at my grandparents tiny house. When the chaos was too much I would slip behind my grandfather’s chair and sit in the corner, away from the action, watching that light go round and round, whispering, blue…green…yellow…red, until I had rested and regained enough energy to race around with all the cousins once more.

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