Sunday, December 13, 2009

O Christmas Tree

My absolute favorite part of Christmas traditions is, by far, the tree. That scene in Christmas Vacation where Chevy Chase comes home with the BEST CHRISTMAS TREE ever, cuts the baling twine and the tree literally explodes open to fill the whole room and break the windows… that slays me every time because if I had my way, that’s how it would be at my house.

I think it has something to do with being completely entranced as a child by the Nutcracker ballet dream sequence where Clara falls asleep under the Christmas tree and it grows to be gigantic. I remember once actually sleeping under the tree when I was young - really, really hoping that I would wake up to dancing snowflake ballerinas and sugar plum fairies. I was forever pestering my Mom to put up the tree. When can we put up the tree, Mom? PLEASE, can we put up the tree, Mom? NOW, can we put up the tree Mom? Busy with raising four children, likely stressed about the cost and duties of the holiday, and possibly a bit depressed about it all, my Mom wasn’t as excited about it as I was. I remember one Christmas - I was maybe 12 or so - she told me if I wanted to do it then I should get on with it on my own. We had an artificial tree, so that was entirely possible and I was thrilled to be in charge of decorating it.

When we moved from Pennsylvania, where real Christmas trees were cost prohibitive, to Oregon where you could get a live tree for the princely sum of $10, I was ecstatic to be able to get real, live, piney-smelling trees. My best Christmas tree ever was when I was living in a house with cathedral ceilings and I bought this 12 ft monster tree at a U-cut farm. The irony was that, because many homes can’t accommodate a tree that had grown so large, the farm was selling it off for $15. You mean, I can fulfill my HUGE Christmas tree fantasy at a CLEARANCE price?! Score - two thrills in one!

As the years went by, my love affair with live trees has fizzled. Once, my tree was accompanied by these odd lime green bugs, not quite beetles, not quite moths. I grew disillusioned with the hassles of hauling the tree home, trying to straighten it in the stand, keeping it watered, and cleaning up those infernal needles. Three years ago, D and I were wandering around Macy’s after Christmas sale and we came across the Christmas d├ęcor section. They were selling trees at 20% of their original price and we took home a nice 7 foot pre-lit tree for a pittance, plus a little 4 foot tree for an even smaller pittance.  Now I get to decorate two trees every year!

D is in charge of setting up that big tree, because its assembly baffles me. It involves a labyrinth of plugs which, each year upon decommissioning, he diligently labels in a sensible system for ease of assembly next year. Then next year comes and there is much muttering and brow furrowing as he tries to figure out what the colored tape and cryptic letters and numbers mean. He also takes it personally when bulbs don’t light on the tree. I’m all – there are hundreds of lights on that tree and I assure you that I can’t see any of the missing ones. But he is a perfectionist and nothing but full compliance from those shining little bulbs is acceptable. This year, he’s gotten into a groove and the tree went together fairly smoothly, barring a few unlit bulbs to which he ultimately conceded defeat.

D’s tradition is that the tree goes up 12 days before Christmas and comes down 12 days after. If I had my druthers, it would go up Thanksgiving weekend and come down New Year's Day. However, D is far from home and if he wants to keep the 12 days of Christmas tradition, well then I’m just that much more excited when the tree does go up. Plus, as the tree construction foreman, he’s gatekeeper to the process. So today I get to decorate the trees – yay!!!

I’m excited about an early Christmas present that Santa dropped off for me yesterday. I LOVE shiny sparkly things, generally in the form of jewelry.  But I have also worn the same small diamond earrings and pendant for about a decade, along with my wedding rings, and don’t really indulge in much variety in the shiny sparkly things department, so Santa brought me jewelry for my tree!

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