Friday, December 6, 2013

Getting a Tree

When I was a kid, we always had a fake tree. In fact, until our basement flooded one year when I was in high school, we used a hand-me-down tree that my grandparents used before I was born. It had bits of residual tinsel wrapped tightly around the branches that we never could pick completely off.
There was a tree lot down the street that I loved passing by each year. The lot stretched across a large field and right in the middle was a giant inflated Santa Claus waving at everyone who drove past. One year Santa got a hole in him, and he was replaced by a similarly-sized Frosty.
When I got married, my husband insisted that we get a real tree. The only previous experience I had had with a real tree was my cousin’s and the branches were so prickly that they hurt my hands when I tried to put an ornament on. We went to a tree lot and chose one that had soft branches and had the fun of strapping the thing into the trunk to get it home.
This year, Joel surprised me by getting a tree and bringing it home while I was at work. Unfortunately for him, the forecast said we were getting between 3 and 7 inches of snow, so I got off early. I surprised him as he was cutting the net off of it.
I grew up in a home with a perfectionist, and naturally some of that quality has rubbed off on me. When Joel strings the lights on, I have to laugh at him. Our first year decorating, they weren’t evenly distributed at all, and the tree looked silly. I went behind him, carefully allocating them so they were spread throughout the tree in even intervals without any of the colors appearing too frequently near like colors. He teased me for caring too much. Then we put on our ornaments. I have a combination of antique glass ornaments, mostly basic bulbs, and sporadic modern ornaments, but I can’t claim that my tree ever looks super polished. For me, Christmas is about nostalgia, and I like to hang up ornaments that mean something special or remind me of Christmas as a kid, so the styles often clash.  
Joel and I got a dog in the first year we were married. We read that dogs sometimes like to drink the water that is kept under the tree to keep it from drying up. Our dog leaves that water alone, but she does love to eat the pine needles. We’re constantly chasing her away from the tree, which she hangs around because she loves to be chased.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “Presto the Magician”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “unknown title”, Jonathan Thomas and his Christmas on the Moon “The Dragon With Thirteen Tails”
MOVIE: Noel! This movie is cheesy and silly but we’ve watched it so many times in my family that it has become part of our Christmas vocabulary. Walking around stating, “I have a happiness” conjures laughs rather than uncomfortable stares. There are several times throughout the holiday season that images from this cartoon come to mind, but the most vivid ones come when dealing with our Christmas tree. When my husband I got married, we had to begin our own stash of holiday decorations. Being a fan of all things old, I began scouring antique stores looking for the glass bulb ornaments
that I grew up using, just like the ones we inherited from my great-grandma. To my surprise, some people considered these to be collector’s items and they were priced higher than I would have expected, sometimes being priced by each bulb rather than by the box. But I got lucky and found boxes missing only a few ornaments for around five dollars a box. Every time I see those shiny guys waiting patiently for their turn on the tree, I think of Noel and how much he looked forward to Christmas, even after decades had passed and his shine had faded. It is natural for kids to personify inanimate objects, and I guess some of that sentimentality never goes away. I think of those bulbs and how awful a fate it would have been if no one had wanted them in spite of the few flecks of paint missing on their faces.
And each year I feel horribly guilty when it comes time to throw out the tree, which I beg my husband to hold onto well into January. “It’s alive,” I tell him, pleading, thinking of the various trees in Noel that were tossed out with the garbage after their usefulness has been completed, Noel sobbing in the background at the loss of his friend.
It aired on TV and we recorded it, which is the reason why I’m still able to watch it; I’ve since discovered that it is hard to track down. Someone recently posted in on Youtube. Enjoy!
SONG: “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Bill Haley and His Comets
GIFT MEMORY: Growing up, we had a fat black cat named Pepper. He was 24 pounds, but he was agile and full of personality, and he was extremely loved by the family. He rarely did anything to be reprimanded for; my mom even trained him to never get on the tables or counter-tops, which if you’ve ever had a cat you will know is a difficult feat. Pepper loved to lay under the Christmas tree. Generally, if he didn’t come when he was called and we couldn’t find him in plain sight, he was under the tree. I loved to wedge myself under there and look up at the lights shining from inside the tree with him. It is strange how different the world looks from under there.
Usually my parents wrapped their gifts and put them under the tree about mid-December, which gave us a few weeks to touch everything so we could try to guess what we got. Apparently, one year, Pepper wanted in on the action. Uncharacteristically, he chewed several of the smaller items, unwrapping one, and putting a hole into a bottle of shower gel my mom had bought for me. When she discovered it, she got very upset and scolded the cat, but taped the hole in the bottle shut and re-wrapped the opened gift. Ever after that, we had to watch the cat around the tree when there were presents around.

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