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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: Oh, Christmas Tree

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh, Christmas Tree




I'm so happy to be sharing this series of Christmas tree memories with my friends over at Company Girl Coffee today! Pay a visit - you won't be disappointed!

There really is something about just sitting at night, looking at the tree.  It takes me back to my younger days, and the annual Christmas tree decorating which took place at my parents' house.

When I was little, we'd put the tree a couple of weeks before Christmas.  This was always the most magical time of the season.

Or so you'd think.

We'd always use the same fake tree.  I can't tell you how long the first tree I remember lasted...decades, I guess.  Back then they made the trees well, as they did with everything else.  So Dad would bring the pieces up from the basement and with each trip, the excitement increased.

Then the stand would be place in its spot of honor, and the center pole in the middle.  Screws would be tightened to hold the pole in place, and then Dad would wrap a piece of twine around it and nail it to the wall - I'm assuming that the tree must've fallen at one point, back in the day? A wire hoop went around the pole, to hold the branches out to their desired fullness...and then the rows of branches would go on, one by one.

At this point, the tree never seemed tall enough.  Is it possible, I'd wonder annually, that I remembered it taller than it actually was? Did it grow in my memory? But then the top piece would slide home, and that top branch was just as high up as I knew it to be in my heart.

Then.  Oh, then.  It came time for Mom to "shape" the tree - you know, spreading and arranging those many bristly branches until there weren't any empty spaces and the tree looked good and full.  This...was a little stressful for all of us.  And now, upon remembering this, I know where my "you're only saying it looks good so I'll stop" attitude (which pops up every now and again) comes from.  Because I'm pretty sure I just quoted her directly.

Then time for the lights.  I liked to make myself as invisible as possible as Mom and Dad snipped at each other worked together like a real team over the spacing of the strands as they progressed down the length of the tree.  It was uncomfortable super fun.

Finally.  Finally once my mother was completely and totally emotionally drained from the strain of shaping and then stringing the lights, it was time to hang ornaments.  This was where my brother and I would come in, and after many years, my sister and my other brother.  To this day, there's still the rush between Jason and I to get our "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments on the tree first, and in a position of more prominence.  Pushing and shoving would ensue as we clamored to get our ornament just one branch higher than the other.  One year not long ago I came home to find my ornament on the back of the tree.  So mine replaced Jason's, and his was turned backwards.  Mine then went in the trash.  It's a good time.

But it's all okay in the end, because I was the first born and therefore have more "This baby is awesome" ornaments than he does.  That's just the way it goes.



Nowadays, I don't decorate the tree with the family.  I decorate my own tree with my husband.  And this year we were fortunate enough to decorate two trees - one in the living room, one in the den.  We might not have the annual "who can find their ornament and get it on there first" cage match, but we do carefully unwrap our own precious ornaments...the ones from our honeymoon and from each anniversary...the "Our First Christmas, 2006" ornament which we so treasure...and put them on the tree together.

I hope that one day I'll watch, lovingly, as my own children clump all the ornaments together in the one spot of the tree they can actually reach, the way Jason did when we were small.  They'll go to bed and I'll fix things when they're asleep.  And maybe through the years we'll be adding more "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments long after I thought I ever would, the way my parents did when the younger pair were born.  Maybe they'll clamor to hang their own favorite ornaments and through the decades will turn it into a good-natured rivalry which only happens once a year.  And I'll remember putting up the tree long ago with my family, and how even my parents' strained nerves were a part of the ritual.

And I'll smile beatifically through it all, my composure maintained, my sanity firmly in place.

See, we use pre-lit trees now.  It's a better day.

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6 Comments:

OpenID joyceandnorm said...

"Back then they made the trees well, as they did with everything else." So true!!! Since we've been married (5 years ago), we've had to buy another toaster oven and laptop (2 actually) and some other thing I can't remember...and my in-laws still have their toaster oven from 1975 that still works!!! My parents gave theirs away but it was still working too!!!

Your Christmas memory sounds all too familiar. =p The tree always ended up a little "see through" but that's okay. hehe

December 10, 2010 at 5:48 PM

 
Blogger Cari Lin said...

What a great Christmas tree story! It made me laugh out loud when you mentioned the little kids putting all the decorations in the one spot of the tree right in front of them. I love it when that happens and then the parents leave it that way. So fabulous!

December 10, 2010 at 8:03 PM

 
Blogger Liz said...

i remember all the individual branches that my parents' tree had. Now ours, while still needing fluffing which drives my hands nuts, comes in just 3 pieces.

we haven't gone pre-lit yet, though. and stringing up the lights really is the worst part. i say you are smart for getting one!

December 11, 2010 at 1:06 PM

 
Blogger secondofwett said...

We always had a 'real' tree growing up but there was always the proper order for doing things...like my dad would put the tree up and put the lights on...then my mom had to put the garland on and then all us kids could put the ornaments on...the best was throwing the tinsel on at the end. Now, in our house, I'm afraid we follow the same pattern...I guess we're just creatures of habit!

December 11, 2010 at 7:52 PM

 
Blogger MrsJenB said...

Ack! I forgot about the garland that had to be as perfectly spaced as the lights! I think my brain is deliberately erasing these memories out of self-preservation.

December 14, 2010 at 5:40 PM

 
Blogger MrsJenB said...

And now Cari Lin has me thinking that I need to not be so perfectionist when it comes to the imaginary ornament placement of my hypothetical, someday children...

December 14, 2010 at 5:41 PM

 

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