Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting back to the start

When I was a little girl and Christmas was most magical, our family would put up a "real" tree. I loved the lights and the tinsel, put on a single strand at a time. There wasn't a theme or color scheme. We had a variety of glass ornaments, accumulated slowly at first due to my parents' frequent moves. We also used garlands and beads and popcorn strings, which gave a lot of bang for the buck. From pictures, I now realize those trees were modest. But as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, each tree was gorgeous.

About the time my brother arrived, our family switched to an artificial tree. My mom had enough to do without pine needles and brittle branches.

I have to admit we had a silver aluminum tree. With blue balls. I tried to like it, really. I did enjoy helping my dad put it together, fitting each numbered branch individually into the pole and the end of season reversal of the branches to the slots in the storage box.

This is the part where my mom will tell me that I'm remembering it all wrong. I know there was a flocked tree for a season or two, also, only slightly better than plain aluminum.

But I think this is just more proof that if you don't like something in your past, you can choose to block it from your memory.

Once we had used the (ugly) aluminum/flocked tree enough years to justify its purchase price, our family switched to a more traditional artificial tree. From then on it was fine, a traditional green tree with lots of colors and lights.

Starting married life, I was determined to once again have a real tree. So of course that's what we did, small trees during the law school years and then larger. We tried the tinsel "icicles" a few times, but with both of us working full time, we didn't have the patience to put them on one string at a time (the only correct way!) or keep our cats from eating them. We've always had multi-colored lights and have collected multi-colored ornaments over the years. Ornaments signify vacations, children's achievements and interests, and of course angels and bells and other symbols of the reason for the Christmas season.

My husband grew up in a family that usually decorated its tree in the same color of ornaments. And his daddy preferred a real, but white flocked tree, so they often had those. Initially, Ricky expressed mild dismay at the multi color approach to our tree. Bless his heart, what husband can win that kind of argument with his wife? I think we did do a flocked tree once, but again, my memory is fuzzy.

Each year in early December Ricky and I and eventually our kids would head to the tree lots, voting on trees until a consensus emerged. The tree needed to be big enough, fresh enough to keep its needles and reasonably symmetrical. Ricky would wrestle it into the house. After waiting a day or two for the branches to settle, Ricky, like my dad, would add the lights. Like my mom, I would fuss until the lights were arranged as I wanted. Then we all added the ornaments.

I have loved every tree, pausing many an evening to sit in the dark to enjoy the random light show from the blinking strings and reflective ornaments. (The pauses are briefer now that our house stays alive much later each night with older kids at home.)

As our oldest approached college age, we faced a dilemma. If everyone was to decorate the tree together, we would have to do it over Thanksgiving or wait until mid December. The first option would create a fire hazard with a real tree. The second option would result in an unbearable delay in the start of the Christmas holiday.

We now have a large artificial tree that we always decorate over the Thanksgiving holidays, when everyone can help. With over thirty years of ornaments to apply, there must be many hands to make light work. We also added the tradition of a daughter helping me "fluff" the branches from their compacted storage before the decorating started.

Other than that, the rhythm continued each year. Ricky wrestled the tree into the house. I fluffed the branches. Ricky added the lights. I critically supervised. We all put on the ornaments.

A few years ago, it dawned on me that I could do the lights myself rather than berate my husband for not being able to read my mind. Much better. And in a moment of inspiration this year, I realized that putting on the lights is a snap if done before the branches are "fluffed."

Once again, our tree is gorgeous.

I'm not sure what we'll do when this tree wears out in a few years. We'll probably get another artificial tree, perhaps a little smaller. Ricky and I will have an argument over whether to do one that is pre-lit. I can not predict that outcome.

By the time that next tree is worn out, my children should all have homes of their own. By then I may be ready to let them take the ornaments from their childhood that they would like to use themselves.

Then I think I would like to get a real tree again. Ricky will wrestle it into the house. He will put the lights on it and I will fuss. Then we'll both decorate, maybe with tinsel put on a single strand at a time, always with the special ornaments we will still have.

Then we'll pause in the evenings to sit in the dark, admiring our gorgeous tree and remembering the wonderful life it represents.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I'm so glad to hear that someone else likes multi colored lights.... and a tree full of memories.... not a theme.... I love it Love it love it!