Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Tree's the Thing

"Fluffy" in all its (his? her?) splendor...
So my sister had this great idea for our mom, an advent calendar for the year filled with our memories
of her.

(Don't worry, it will still be a surprise, not even my mom reads this blog regularly.)

Anyway, while I was writing up my December memory, it reminded me something about my childhood Christmases, I was the one in my family who really liked to decorate.

My family is an ironic bunch and I am the chief sap in the family.

Jaded journalist? Yes.

Guy who tears up at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life" every time? Also yes.

Hell, I even get choked up watching Chevy Chase try to get his family to appreciate Christmas.

Understand, for me Christmas for me is about the sentiment.

A local ornament I bought in 2002.
The idea that we can set aside a time of year to wish everyone, no matter who they are, a merry Christmas, peace on Earth, good will toward men, I'm totally in.

I don't begrudge those who consider it a religious holiday.

More power to them, and I'm happy it gives them joy and purpose.

But history shows that Jesus was born sometime in March and the whole Christmas thing was just the Church's way of co-opting pagans into the fold

But hey, that's ancient history. Literally.

And we still carry many of those pagan traditions into our homes each year, the most central of which is the Christmas tree.

For me, the tree holds pride of place. Not because of the gifts that go under it. Frankly, I could do without the gifts and just go for the decorations, the food, and, most especially, the music. Always the music.

My grandmother made this many
years ago.
Anyway, the reason the tree is so important to me is that, being an amateur historian, the tree each year
tells the story of our family.

I have some truly God-awful ornaments that my mother's mother made for our tree that I still put up each year, even though they often go in the back.

I don't love it, but it wouldn't be our Christmas tree without it. It's where we're from.

Regular readers of this blog (yes, both of you) may recall a post I wrote in the 2011 season about a tree we accepted as a gift from a friend who had cut it down and which fell unceremoniously one morning.

The chief casualty of that mishap was an ornament my wife had inherited from her grandmother. We talk about its loss every year as we decorate.

Each year we buy a new ornament (or two) and add to our history.

This ornament is the product of one
craft project.
And, in our house, it takes days to decorate the tree.

Firstly, my son has important XBox responsibilities and my wife is already working hard to corral him into this year's craft project.

One advantage (if you choose to look at it that way) of being a poor journalist is that family gets hand-made gifts each year

My son's favorite ornament.
Understand, we long ago banned gifts for adults (much to my delight, and my banker's as well) and only buy presents for the kids. But we insist that the child at least recognize the largesse from which he benefits by donating time (if not talent) toward gifts for those making his Christmas one filled with things he actually wants.

My wife is quite clever (and talented) in this regard and gifts have ranged from birdhouse ornaments, to hand-made coasters and stuff I couldn't even begin to explain.

The Wizard of Oz lives in Fluffy.
But the end result of all this activity is that mostly, I decorate the tree while leaving certain things aside for the other two for whom a particular ornament has particular meaning.

For my son, it is a saxophone ornament, and for my wife, a Wizard of Oz set.

As for me, I don't mind doing most of it, silently remembering the trip my wife and I took to Boston when we purchased a whole host of animal ornaments, those we bought in Cape Cod, as well as the one's Dylan made as a child.

The Cape Cod ornament.
With his interest waning, I am quietly setting some of those aside. (Good thing he doesn't read this blog either....)

We use to go each year to Kutz's tree farm in North Coventry, but since that became another practice field for Owen J. Roberts High School, we have been at loose ends.

We've tried different places and this year went to buy our tree from the Mosaic Community Garden on Chestnut Street. But we have a neo-Victorian house (built in 1913) and eight-foot ceilings. The trees they had there were just too small.

(They're still selling them there and you can call ahead and order a certain height.)
They're very friendly at the community garden.

But we decided to patronize the tree farm which had supplied those trees at a reduced cost. Heylmun's Pine Hill Farm, also in North Coventry.

And, for the first time in our family history, we cut down our own tree.

My wife and I are partial to concolor, a species of spruce I believe, because they keep their needles, bu they didn't have any at Heylmun's, so we settled on a white pine.

Yes, I cut it myself!
Unlike trees from previous years, the needles of a white pine are long and soft, an advantage to the decorator, but a disadvantage to the display of the ornaments, which tend to get hidden.

Anyway, each year is a different story, which is why I tend to favor the tree decorating, it adds to the narrative.

This year's narrative will include the tree being purchased just before one snow storm hit, and finished as another was arriving.

What more perfect Christmas story could you ask for?

Merry Christmas everyone. Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men (and Women.)


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