Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tree Trauma

Can a person suffer from "tree trauma?" I am thoroughly convinced that I can. Putting up the Christmas tree was always a traumatic time at my house. Buying the tree was always Dad's job. He was really good at it. He always bought the "perfect" tree. He had a special stand to put it in which consisted of a large bucket with sand, which HAD to be kept moist. I'm not sure how he fastened it into the bucket, just that that was what he used and that wire was involved. After said tree was anchored into the stand and was set in place, always in the southeast corner of our living room, Dad then put on the lights. My brother and I always made ourselves very scarce while this ritual occurred. Remember, back in the 50's, the only lights available were big colored ones, either strands of 8 or 16. Usually part of the lights worked, part didn't. Mom always made sure Dad had a supply of extra bulbs at hand to help the process along. After much aggressive language and contortions, the lights were finally arrayed on the tree. Then Dad always left the room!

My brother and I got to hang on the ornaments as Mom handed them to us. There was never any new ones. Always the ones that we had always had. Mom always told a story about each ornament. Like the silver one with the bite out of it that my brother damaged when he was 2 and the Dr. said feed him peanut butter sandwiches. The angel on the top of the tree was the one that Dad and Mom bought on their first Christmas as a married couple in 1941.
After all the ornaments were on, then came the icicles. Icicles back then were made of tin foil, not the synthetic ones like we have now. We actually kept these, carefully wrapped in newspaper from year to year. We boys were not allowed to throw them on the tree. We had to place each one carefully so that it hung straight down. Then for the final touch, Mom put a small handful of "angel hair" (a substance made of spun glass and made me itch) around each light. This softened the light, and also made the lights appear bigger. After the tree was done, it was always a thing of beauty! Dad would come back from "hiding" and always exclaim that this was the prettiest one yet!

The year Dad passed, it was up to my bro and I to shop for the perfect tree. We went to the tree place where Dad always went. We went after dark! We looked and looked. Of course there were lights all over the place so picking the tree wasn't a bad job. Until we got it home. We had advanced to a "store-bought" stand by this time, and after trimming a few lower branches and mounting our prize tree into the stand, it was time to carry it inside. We stood it in the special corner and...alas. this tree had a severe dog leg problem. We could either go back and buy another tree, or figure out how to make this one work. Being the two industrious young men that we were, we wired it to the curtain rod, put a couple of Reader's Digests under two legs of the stand, and "voila" the tree was straight. We had to put on those blasted lights ourselves, but we got it done. Mom snickering all the while, but was gracious enough to make nice. My brother got married the very next weekend, I finished up college and got married the following summer and Mom bought an artificial tree.

My new wife and I tried a real tree our first year, but she was allergic to all the sap and stuff, and I had to do all the decorating of it myself, so we opted for artificial ones after that. We had a beautiful one for several years, until our garage caught fire and we lost tree, lights and most of the ornaments. Fortunately, most of the ones that were precious were stored in back of the dining room closet. Replacing the Christmas tree and ornaments was not fun!

Last year I decided that the old tree (now about 20 yrs old) was shedding and looked shabby, so I bought a new one. One with the lights already on it. Wow! This was living. Only I did find out that those trees look a lot smaller in the store than they do in your living room. My kids gasped in either shock or surprise when they saw it for the first time. It is huge. And tall! But it is sure beautiful.

My how times have changed. I no longer have to string on lights. If one goes out, simply pop in another one, the bulbs don't get hot and threaten with fire. The tree doesn't dry out and I don't have to crawl under it to add water to the stand every other day.
All this, and I miss some of the old ways. Or maybe I am just missing my youth! But, I do know that I have some very fond memories of Christmases past!



Curley said...

Very nice. I remember growing up with an aluminum tree that you aimed a revolving colored wheel at and it changed the color on the tree. I really loved that tree. Then. When first married we had a real tree. I got tired of still finding pine needles with my bare feet in July. I love my pre-lit fake tree.

Jimmie Earl said...

My Grandma had one of those aluminum trees. She also had one of those revolving lights on it. Each branch came in it's own paper sleeve. She also had the ugliest ornaments on the face of the earth!

Lilith said...

That was awesome to read.

Maggie said...

Hilarious! I bet my grandmother thought it was hilarious and was also touched by the gesture and effort! Amazing how helpful "Reader's Digest" can be!