Today I completed my dreaded annual ritual. I climb in the attic, over the television boxes we once thought was a clever idea to keep, under a wire that goes to something, and over a set of china and some Easter decorations.
“Voila,” I say to myself.
Nestled in the exact place I drug it last year, is the targeted prize; our Christmas tree!
In the absolute best spirit of Christmas I can muster, I pull that green aluminum stick in a bag over the Easter decorations, under the wire, and over the television boxes, down the stairs and into the living room. I dig out the stand and place the tree, in four parts, onto the stand, in our front window. I’m no rookie. I’ve done this now for over forty years.
Before I get cranky, each year my mind wanders back to a simpler time.
Christmas season as a kid was my favorite time of the year. My parents did not have much money, but they did as much as they could to help Santa make Christmas shine. My grown-up hard-working dad magically transformed into a kid along side me and my sister. He extended the tight food budget and bought fruits such as oranges, tangerines, apples, and bananas. In addition, he bought assorted nuts broader than the normal pecans or peanuts. I remember Brazilian nuts and walnuts. To pull it all together, he bought peppermint candy canes.
Mom and my sister made our already active kitchen come alive making Christmas candy. We had divinity, fudge, date nut rolls, haystacks and my favorite, peanut brittle.
My job during this festive time included eating these treats and expect opening gifts comprised of much needed clothing and one or two special surprise gifts.
But before the gifts could arrive, we had to have a Christmas tree. This is where I stepped up to the plate and delivered. I took my dads trusty ax, headed to the woods, and always returned with the perfect tree for Santa to place his favors.
Dad taught me how to make a homemade tree stand to hold the tree upright. Once we placed our single strand of twelve lights on the tree, mom let me throw silver icicles in the air and where they landed is where they stayed. I placed our cardboard cutout star covered with Reynolds wrap aluminum foil on top of that majestic tree. It worked and Santa never complained.
When I married, a Christmas dilemma developed between me and my wife. Her misguided tradition comprised of putting up a fake tree, completely covered with store bought ornaments and get this; no and I repeat, no icicles! The star looked like a beat-up hub cap.
While working through this crisis, we started pricing trees. Her completely unacceptable fake tree cost sixty dollars, an amount totally out of our budget.
Next, we went to the beautiful, spectacular, and wonderfully acceptable Christmas tree lot. This lot had blue spruce, Douglas firs, white pine, and other assorted evergreens. I get chills just thinking about it. Anyway, I had her leaning my way until we got to the price tag. Whoa! The cheapest tree cost thirty dollars. My frugal wife was already schooling me on the economic benefits of buying her fake stick tree and how it would pay for itself in two years.
I had to do something and quickly. I was losing this battle.
“I’ll just go cut us a fresh live tree,” I boast. “I did it for years as a kid. I can certainly do it now as a young man,”
Uptown wife, gave me that look that says, “why in God’s green world did I ever marry you?”
“Okay big boy. Do it,” she says, thinking I would back out.
The next day, ax in hand, I trudge out of the suburbs of the city, many miles until I come to a wooded area. I walked quite a way through a dense thicket of woods, sweat beading, mosquitoes biting and branches swatting me as I maneuvered to a patch of acceptable cedar gems. I cut a prized tree that I was sure would resolve the Christmas tree standoff. As a bonus, I could place my prized icicles on it.
When my wife came home, I had the stand made and the tree upright. I must admit, she was a beauty. I held my hands out and made a “tada,” gesture. Of course, I had to throw in the fact that this tree was free. My wife reluctantly agreed to let it stay. The moment made me tear up slightly and I noticed I began to rub my eyes. And rub my eyes. And rub my eyes.
I went to the mirror and noticed my right eye was red. I put some drops in it and went to bed.
The next morning, I could not open my right eye. Alarmed, I went to the doctor. After a thorough examination, he told me I had a cedar tree barb stuck in my eye. He removed the barb and gave me some drops. The total bill? One hundred and thirty dollars!
The next Christmas, I really enjoyed our beautiful fake Christmas tree. Each year for the next forty years, I pull that green aluminum stick in a bag over the Easter decorations, under the wire, and over the television boxes, down the stairs, into the living room. I dig out the stand and place the tree, in four parts, onto the stand, in our front window.
Our Christmas tree!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How faithful are thy branches!