A month which always brings to mind a mountain of memories.
Most of my December memories revolve around Christmas.
Some are good, some are bad. Some are of things I miss.
Some are faded; some vividly clear.
That thing I had begged and pleaded for, usually since late summer, was finally MINE!
Like Nerf Pop Rockets. And, later on, white K-Swiss tennis shoes.
Sometimes the memories aren’t so good and so positive.
Like being the one to have to wiggle underneath the tree to water it. I probably only ever had to do it once, but once was enough. I was little, maybe six or seven. No one said, “Keep your head down so you won’t snag your hair.” OUCH! Or, “Put one finger in the cup so you’ll know when it is getting full and you won’t run it over.” DANG IT!!
And the ubiquitous silver tinsel. I thought the tree always looked great until the liberal applications of tinsel began. Vegas had nothing on some of the trees I recall.
I always wanted our tree to look like the ones on television—with pretty white lights and all of the ornaments matching. And NO tinsel!
Once I discovered there was such a thing as an artificial tree I begged my parents to get one. It was several years before they saw the light. So, the tradition of having a live tree continued for what seemed like a great while to me. I vowed that when I was grown and had my own place I’d NEVER have one of those bothersome real trees! All those stupid needles! And, MY artificial tree would only ever have pretty white lights, not those multi-colored ones. And, all MY ornaments would MATCH and be shiny and new!
Now, in the midst of the years of begging for the artificial, I once asked Daddy if I could go with him when he went to get our live Christmas tree. He said yes so all four of us wound up going. But we didn’t go to Kroger. And we didn’t go to Lowes. And we didn’t go to the tree lot. And we didn’t go to the nursery. We crossed my aunt’s neighbor’s field and went into his woods where my mother’s family (and probably several others) had been getting Christmas trees for perhaps over 100 years. They were all good neighbors.
After taking turns holding the barbed wire so we could all get through “un-barbed,” Daddy hacked a path through the raspberry brambles. All of a sudden, we were in a huge open field. Copious amounts of post-digestive tract dna testified to the recent presence of cows. Lots of them. My mother was nervous—she didn’t like big animals. “Maybe we shouldn’t go, Robert. What if the cows come back?” Daddy just shrugged, slung the axe over his shoulder and headed across. We followed, picking our way carefully across the field and into the somewhat hilly woods on the other side. There began the search.
I found the perfect one immediately. Except that it was way too tall and too big around to fit in the corner of our living room. My parents finally agreed on a pretty one of the proper size and Daddy chopped it down. He tied it up with twine and he and my brother carried it back across the field, my mother and I trailing close behind.
Once we got it home, they put it in the tree stand, gave it some water and then waited for the heat of the house to “bring it out.” And the heat really brought it out. By the next day, that thing had let down and it wound up having more gaps than a set of “Bubba teeth.” But my parents got to work on it—they “wired it up.” And it worked. And what they couldn’t wire, bountiful amounts of tinsel took care of and no one was any the wiser.
Since I left home at 18 to seek my fortune, as I vehemently vowed, I have only ever had artificial trees, and never has even a squiggle of tinsel graced a tree I have owned. And there it ends.
This year, as we have for the past three or four years, my husband and I debated about whether we should try to find a new Christmas tree. Perhaps even a pre-lit one. Ours has certainly seen better days. It is at least a dozen years old. It is missing one whole branch—we turn that part to the corner. It loses at least a dustpan of needles every time we put it up. But once he puts those pretty warm white lights on it and we put all the mismatched and homemade and kid-made ornaments on it, we sigh and say, “Hmph. It looks pretty good. We got another year out of it!”
And every year, for the past 35 years, I’ve missed the smell of that freshly cut tree Daddy chopped down and brought home for Christmas.