• Claudia Myers

Oh Christmas Tree, Uh-Oh Christmas Tree!

I remember Christmas morning as being dark and warm, smelling of evergreens, as we opened our presents by the lights of the tree. When I was a little girl, the Christmas tree never made an appearance until Christmas morning. Now that I am an old adult, and have been through many Christmases with children, I am totally amazed that my parents pulled that off, every year. Think about not only putting the toys together and wrapping them--remembering the batteries and being careful to not throw away the warrantees and instructions, but waiting til the kid was asleep to quietly drag the tree in, set it up and decorate it. No wonder I had to wait upstairs while my dad went down to check to make sure Santa had indeed been there. My mom was probably still struggling with the lights.

Without giving away how old I am, I will tell you that I have been around for six and 1/2 dozen Christmas trees. I remember for years, when I was young, my mom decorated the tree with only blue lights, blue glass ornaments and tinsel. Oh yes, tinsel. Tinsel is sort of like bagpipes--you are either a tinsel person or a non-tinsel person. Tinsel is , or should be, the deciding factor in choosing a spouse--sort of like the Miracle Whip vs. Mayonnaise question. Marriage is hard enough without having to compromise about things like that. Angel hair is not even to be spoken of.

Same thing with flocking. We NEVER had a flocked tree, nor a pink tree, nor silver or gold or fake. Just a plain old Balsam that would start shedding its" needles the day after Christmas--but always smelled like Christmas. There are people who will only have a Scotch Pine or a fancy hybred tree, trucked in from the Great Northwest--but I wasn't raised by them. I have to say, though, that for awhile there were bubble lights. Those fascinating additions that seemed always to be hanging upside-down and not functioning properly--but fascinating, all the same.

So, when I married, my expectations came crashing down, when I realized that this wonderful man that I had said I'd be true to--forever--was raised in a Scotch Pine/Miracle Whip family!! Horrors! How had I not noticed that? However, in the grand scheme of a beginning relationship, we compromised. We got a Scotch Pine tree and I decorated it with huge orange ribbon bows----orange being my favorite color at that moment---AND tinsel. I was working at a flower shop and had learned, as part of my job, to make bows as big as your head. So there it was! Glorious!

The next few years saw babies arriving and a military move to Germany, where Christmas is celebrated with much tradition, including liquor-filled chocolate ornaments for the Tannenbaums. Yes, the two little boys had eaten most of them before I figured that out.

Then came a succession of small trees jammed into the living room corner of our two bedroom resident's housing unit, as we reurned to Rochester, MN and Tom resumed his Dermatology Fellowship at Mayo's. The trees were further dwarfed by the pile of toys granting the wishes of three children, four years and under. Dolls and wagons and legos. And pull toys that made dreadful noises. And the tree was always up before Christmas morning--because "Maaaaahhhmmm, everybody else has their tree up. Will Santa even come if we don't have a tree???"

The first Christmas in the Victorian house in Duluth was dampened by the fact that all three children had mumps. We have pictures of them by the tree, with their first skis on, wistfully gazing at the snow outside the windows. But, with the move into this period house, the Holidays seemed to get bigger and 'way more elaborate! The decorating became bigger and shinier--the plaid got plaidier and the sparkle just went out of control! There was a fireplace for Santa to come down! And a grand staircase for children to wait upon, with their stockings hanging on the railings, while Dad checked to see if Santa had, indeed, been there. And 13 foot ceilings. You know what 13 foot ceilings means, don't you?? To my mind, it meant a 12 and 1/2 foot Christmas tree! Every year, the middle of December saw the start of the search. For awhile, the Farmer's Market was the source, until that resourceful person retired. For another few years, one of the localTree Nursery owners would top a tree for us and deliver it. And then, a friend had some property that we would slog out on, to find that perfect TREE. One year, I even over-exceeded the heighth requirement and the marks were still on the ceiling when we sold the house.

In between "School vacation" and Christmas was the time to keep the kids busy--to keep the anticipation and general "squirrely-ness under control, so we made ornaments for the coming tree. Mostly, we made those fancy styrofoam ball ornaments with the bazillion bead and sequin-holding pins stuck in them--to the music of many childish complaints. To this day, when I get them out, I still hear the whining about stuck fingers--and this from grown adults!

The search for the perfect tree became even more neccessary when my daughter and I went to the estate sale at the Bishop's House. Down in the basement was the huge, 30 pound rotating stand that had been made for the Bishop's tree--$25! How could we leave it?? In our scheme of Christmas decorating, it became THE TREE STAND. The problem was, now, the tree had to be ram-rod straight. If it was the least bit crooked in the trunk, it wobbled like a guy on his 3rd bowl of Tom and Jerrys. But--again--it was glorious!

When we built the log house, there was no question of THE TREE STAND not coming with us. We sold many things, but not that baby. The first Christmas happened also to be the "year of the Great Halloween Blizzard". There are people who remember just exactly where they were during that storm, just like JFK's shooting and 9/11. We had just moved into the almost-finished house from the travel trailer we'd been living in during construction, because everything was freezing up. Tom said---" Y'know, there are lots of trees on our property, so lets just cut one of our own trees. I think I saw some good ones behind the garage." And so he trudged off and returned pulling this snow-covered lump behind him.

When we had gotten it dragged inside and into the rotating stand, the snow began to melt off its' branches and we got a good look at it. The ceilings in the log main room were 22' high. This tree had to be about 18 of those feet. And------it had about 12 branches on it. We called it the "Wilt the Stilt" tree and hung about a dozen ornaments on it--no lights. And it would have taken many packages of tinsel to make it beautiful. We went out after that Christmas and bought an artificial tree. Tom said even though Wilt was an ugly tree, he just didn't want to cut down anymore of HIS trees.

The artificial tree was one of those that had to be put together branch by branch and was a very large undertaking, being a large tree. It required the help of post-Thanksgiving dinner visiting children--now grown and able to decipher the complicated colored ribbon system that Tom devised to make the successful construction of the tree a distinct possibility. It DID look at its' best with it's branches in some order of descending size rather than willy-nilly, as it turned out one year, looking like a porcupine gone berserk.

But, there were still THE LIGHTS to contend with. For 23 years, we grumbled about that tree and the one that replaced it, (with its' own lights) and soooooo, when we moved into our present home--the 1952 "Prairie Rambler"--we not only sold all our Victorian Renaissance enormous furniture, we sold THE TREE STAND. With our blessings, thank you Bishop.

In the new place, which is calculated to make everything easier for these elder persons, we have NO tree. The prickley ornaments are piled into a large red glass bowl on the retro glass coffee table.

The mantle is swathed with red kimono silk and fake evergreen--nice, but no smell.

The wrapped packages get piled on and around the table in the entry and our dining table is festooned with our Finnish ice glass collection, sparkles,

glass trees and candles with batteries.

I have to admit to a small twinge about the missing tree--but it doesn't last long.

The "children" still come for

Christmas, bringing their

spouses, children and dogs--

which is the most important

part of celebrating for us---

We still do stockings with magazines or puzzles or coloring books to keep everyone occupied until Christmas dinner. The "big" gifts still have funny ones mixed in, like the time our oldest son made his brother a toupee from a racoon pelt with leather chin straps. Or, when Tom got a Tee-shirt that said "I think I have a book about it"--because that's a standing family joke---he always does.

And, by and large,--- a Merry old time has

been had by All!! Glorious, just glorious! Halleluliah!!

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