wabby's picture

    O, Christmas Tree!

    I love trees in general. Yeah. I've hugged 'em. So, my affection for Christmas trees should come as no surprise. Even though I do not follow the Christian faith, I have come to understand not being Christian does not necessarily stop anyone from putting up a Christmas tree. It has become, I think, a kind of generic symbol of gift-giving, good tidings and joy.

    But, I am not putting up a tree this year. Actually, I haven’t put up a tree for a number of years. It’s not because I can’t afford one. It’s not because I don’t have the time. It’s not because I don’t have the room. And it's definitely not because I don't find them beautiful. It’s just because.

    When I was a kid, we always had a real tree in the house at Christmas time. We usually bought our tree from the Kiwanis who set up business in the far end of the IGA parking lot every December. We never spent more than five dollars. Anything more than that, well, you were just showing off and besides that we lived in Michigan. Pine trees were everywhere and are still. Actually, there are several Christmas tree farms near where I live. They're really low maintenance concerns because you don’t hafta build a fence around them to keep them from wandering away. A Christmas tree pretty much stays where you plant it.

    Anyhoo. My mother and I would go pick out a tree about two weeks before Christmas. She always insisted on a Scotch pine because it had the nicest smell. The Kiwanis guy would shove it into the trunk of what ever Pontiac Dad was driving that year and Mom and I would bring it home, the trunk lid bobbing up and down the whole way because we always forgot to bring a piece of rope to tie the lid down.

    When we got home, we would bring the tree into the ‘mud room’ and stick it in a bucket of water. We’d leave it there over night. Mom said it was so the tree could relax and get used to being inside because trees were outside things and it was difficult for them to make the change. She said even though the tree had been cut away from its root, its spirit was still alive and it was our responsibility now to care for that spirit as long as we could. Yep. My Mom was an old Injun hippie from way back before hippies were invented.

    Well, that tree would soak up that entire bucket of water and the whole house would have a lovely pine scent by morning. Mom was right about Scotch pines having the nicest smell. They also have the crookedest trunk. The air would turn blue with cuss words while my Dad tried to fit that crooked trunk into the tree stand. It was my job to stand exactly ten feet away, and not move an inch, and tell him when the tree was straight up and down and yeah, I know it was a ruse to keep me out of his way!

    Getting the tree to stand up straight was a very long process and usually took until lunchtime, whereupon whatever direction the tree was leaning, it was forever to remain that way as decreed by Dad. That was the only day of the year Dad would get to have a beer with his lunch. But, an amazing thing would happen while Dad and I were slurping up our noodle soup. When we went back to look at the tree, it was straight! Mom would be standing next to it, smiling, telling us what a great job we had done.

    Somehow, the tree got decorated. I remember stringing popcorn together…yards and yards of it…and I was allowed to put on a few ornaments but Mom did most of it. Her special touch was to put those long strands of shiny, silvery, ‘icicles’ on every last branch. She would put them on, one by one, placed just so. Our trees always shimmered.

    And finally, Mom would cover up the tree stand not with a fancy tree skirt, but with one or two plain white sheets. She would fold and fuss with them, spread them out and around, and when she was done, it looked like our tree was standing in a drift of freshly fallen snow.

    After many years I came to realize decorating a Christmas tree was Mom's ‘thing’…it was what brought her some kind of personal happiness. I didn’t think about that back then, though. I was a kid and big thoughts would come later. Back then it was enough just to be awed by the beautiful tree that was inside our house, that smelled so nice, that shimmered and sparkled in a drift of snow. I couldn’t wait until after supper and it would be dark enough to plug in the lights. Wow! There just wasn’t anything more spectacular than a Christmas tree lit up like, well, like a Christmas tree.

    About a week after Christmas, we would take the tree down. Everything would come off and be packed away except for some strands of tinsel and the strings of popcorn. They stayed put. Then, we’d take that tree outside and stand it up against the garage. Mom would tie on little pieces of suet and the birds that didn’t fly south for the winter had a nice place to come for a feed. It was always entertaining to watch the brilliant red cardinals and noisy blue jays visit that tree throughout the winter and spring months and always a delight to spot a string or two of tinsel woven into a new nest.

    By the first of May most of the needles had fallen off the tree and landed directly on the soil beneath, where in a few weeks time some acid loving flowers would bloom. On Memorial Day, what remained of our tree became part of the yard and garden cleanup bonfire. Its spirit was finally let go. We had done our best by it and had not been wasteful.

    When I was nineteen my Mom died and afterward, putting up Christmas trees became such an emotionally painful chore for me that I stopped. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I rediscovered the joy of it. Now that they are grown and out of the house once again, I don’t put up a tree at Christmastime. I enjoy looking at the decorated trees belonging to other people though and when they ask me about mine, I tell them I like to keep my Christmas trees outside and that I occasionally have them professionally decorated with snowflakes. They laugh and let it go and I am glad now that I am old enough that I don’t have to explain every little eccentricity I exhibit.

    But, I’ve saved all the tree decorations; I even have a few ornaments that were kept by my mother. When there are small children in the family again, I will resume putting up a tree. We will decorate it together and as we place the strands of icicles, one by one, just so, on the branches of a Scotch pine, I will tell them about the beautiful trees their great-grandmother made.



    Flowerchild, what a lovely story!. Great family portraits and I particularly like the part of the tree's aftermath, underlying the generational theme.

    Well done.

    Thank you, Oxy. As we say up here in the (not so) frozen tundra, "Murry Chrissmuss!".

    Oh, flower, you pulled me right in. It's like all my memories came out to play with yours, and I can't thank you enough for that. Did your mom know my mom?

    We always hung the icicles one by one, and saved them until they were too wrinkley to reuse. Saved wrapping paper and bows, too!

    The absolutely worst thing humans ever did to the tradition of Christmas trees was to turn them into plastic. Honestly, if taking care of a real tree for a couple of weeks is too much trouble for you, just put some bows on a vacuum cleaner and be done with it.

    Merry Christmas!

    Long live hippie mom spirit!

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas Day, barefooted!

    Loved this so much, Flowerchild!  A wonderful Christmas memory.  (I can relate to so much of it!  My dad and my husband both cussing over trying to get the tree straight, setting it in a bucket of water overnight--throwing in a few aspirins for some reason--the white sheets as a tree skirt, my mom and later, me, letting the kids throw the tinsel on the tree and then straightening each strand after they had gone to sleep.)

    Tough to lose your mom so young.  I can understand why Christmas would lose its meaning for a while, but kids have a way of making things bright again.  So do grand-kids!  Christmas will take on a whole new meaning again when they pitter-patter through the holidays with you.

    My best to you and your family and a merry, merry Christmas! 

    My best to you and your family as well, Ramona.

    A beautiful story, flower. It conjured up a lot of memories. Thank you.

    Hope you had a good Christmas Day, Mr. Smith.

    Thank you so much for your beautiful and fun haiku throughout the year!

    Yeah, Flower comes through again!

    What a story.

    I just read a fun article at Salon by a writer who is not a 'Christian' but who loves Christmas.



    Again, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Thanks for the link, Mr. Day.

    I know you will enjoy the time with your granddaughters. I have given up hope of having grandchildren of my own, so I am enjoying yours vicariously. Please continue writing about their adventures!



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