O, Christmas Tree!

"The glory of
Lebanon shall come to you, the fir tree, the pine, and the box tree
together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary"
Isaiah 60:13

After a couple days of silliness, I’m taking a quiet day to put up the tree.

For years, I thought this was supposed to be a family affair, where everyone would gaily head out together, pick the perfect tree, saw it down and tie it on the car. We would all go home to hot chocolate, and with Christmas carols playing cheerily in the background, we’d take great joy in lighting and hanging ornaments on this most beautiful symbol of the season.

I’m not sure what family my head was living in, for it was neither the reality of my childhood family nor the family I was creating as an adult. In those families, going out to cut a tree involved whining and sniffling and impatience. The first year after the divorce it seemed even more important to corral those children and enforce the tradition. That year I lost four year old Abby at the Christmas tree farm and by the time I found her, nine year old Daniel had partially cleared a small forest, toppling 5 trees as he searched, armed with the saw, for "the best one."

Off and on over the years, family makes only minor contributions, usually critiquing the color or size of the lights. Abby likes to take part and hang ornaments after the lights are up. The irony in this is that she has, since middle school, hired herself out to my friends to put on their lights. One friend in particular, called from California this year to say since moving she pines for Abby’s meticulous and comprehensive placement of her tree lights. She always hired Abby because her husband refused to do it. At home, Abby will have no part of it. The first year Rich and I were together hope sprung anew. Perhaps this new man of faith and good heart would take delight in decorating the tree with me. He’s worse than the lot of them.

So, my reality is that this is something I do and everyone else enjoys the end result. And after spending years feeling put upon around the whole situation, it has suddenly dawned on me that this is really a wonderful blessing of the season to me. Before he left earlier this week, Rich said that we would go get a tree this coming weekend
when he comes off his Habitat House bulding trip; I think he’s trying to be especially sensitive to me this first year in the city, this first year without my mother. He wasn’t gone a day before I realized how much I wanted the task and pleasure all for myself.

I want the peace and quiet to set my mind to the meaning of the season. I want to play the Messiah, from start to finish, without interruption as I put up the white lights like so many hundreds of tiny stars. Then I’ll take a break and set out a little lunch of cheese and crackers and wine to enjoy as I sort through the boxes of ornaments collected over 30 years- mostly glass birds and shells and crickets and butterflies, gold brushed leaves and silver coated pine cones. Small and clumsy ceramic cutouts with school child faces pasted on. Some wooden hand painted loons and bears sent from Lost Loon Lodge. A few delicate balls with metallic pink and gold stripes left from my grandmother- the German kind that are paper thin glass and can crumble in your hand if you’re not careful. 3 hand crocheted pears from a friend who died this year of breast cancer. Hand-embroidered cardinals and nuthatches. The porcelain squirrel light caps. Lace and feather angels.

I found the perfect tree and paid twice as much as I ever did before. It’s an unshaped, untrimmed tall and lean Frasier Fir. Two handsome young Wisconsin men came from the garden store to put it up in the stand and it smells all citrusy and green. Last year, for some reason I can’t remember (I should check my archives here) we succumbed to a- oh, I remember!- a PRE-LIT artificial tree. I didn’t like it and it got shipped off to Florida in the move; I can’t imagine using it there, either. I’m back to the real and magical deal. Bud will be coming for Christmas and he’s made a point of calling me several times to say that this is the very first time he won’t be putting up a tree. My mother insisted, even in failing health, that they go out in the north woods and cut a tree each year. When he arrives I want him to have a tree to enjoy here, along with everybody else who didn’t help select it, light it or decorate it.

That pleasure is all mine.

And right when I thought the day couldn’t get better my nearly
almost completely grown son called. He didn’t need anything, he wasn’t
in a state of musician angst and he didn’t want to anquish over the
cellist in London. He called to say, "Are you going to be home tonight?
I’m coming through on my way to a gig in Minneapolis and I thought I’d
spend the night." Be still, my heart. I bet he’s going to love this
tree.  Here is a "before the fall" picture of my lovely tree. It hadn’t dropped it’s boughs yet after being bundled up.

Over the next few days I’m going to just post some detailed pictures
of the tree, complete, and Sophie is coming on board the Ark tomorrow
because Rhett has been asking after her. Other than that, a breather so
I can come by and see how you are doing- why is it that I either have
time to post or time to comment, but not both?  (Sometimes I come see
you in the dark of night, silently. Check your stats- it’s true.) I
hope you’ll come by here and enjoy the tree as you get ready for this
most wonderful time of year.

I’ve had numerous e-mails asking me if I will revive the mostly true
Christmas story of my childhood, The Night Buckminster Fuller Came to
Dinner. That was, in my opinion, a good piece of writing amongst lots
of drivel. I will post it again within the next week or so.Tree1


14 responses to “O, Christmas Tree!

  1. That’s a beautiful tree, and I can’t wait to see it in its seasonal finery. Also looking forward to your Buckminster Fuller tale. What a treat! Enjoy your evening with your son.

  2. That is truly a stunning tree, Vickster. No kidding. (So what did you do with the chair?)

    I do remember those paper-thin ornaments that broke if you looked at them crossly. I think I started with 24, and 30 years later wound up with 3. And now I don’t even know where those 3 are. So it goes.

    I am glad you’ll have a merry yuletide (also known as Christmas, even to us atheists).

  3. I say whatever tradition works is a good one. We tried the Christmas tree farm ONCE, and fought horribly over what we thought was the perfect tree. Now my husband buys it; this year it was $100 for a SECOND, and he was grumbling. We live in WA, for crying out loud. Trees should cost about $5! He puts it in the stand, brings it in, puts lights on(I’m hopeless) and then the girls and I decorate it. Ashley puts the train tracks around the tree because she’s very good at that. Your tree is perfect for your space. Have a special time with Dan!

  4. The Frasier fir is my all time favorite, but I still go with the pre-lit artificial tree nowadays, for the ease of put-up and tear-down if affords me. But I buy Frasier fir branches to use in arrangements and a big pot of them smell as nice as a tree and last longer.

    Enjoy your son (I know that you will) and look forward to Bud’s arrival for the holidays.

  5. The tree is gorgeous, lovely, perfectly shaped, wonderful size for your place and… well, I’d like to just sit and look at it and sip some hot tea for a day or two… it’s wonderful, even without the ornaments! My live trees never looked that good.

    Nyssa and I usually did trim the tree together. At least the ornaments. We went through each one and remembered when we got it, or what they meant. The picture snowflakes of four year olds from Sunday School, the salt dough Holly Hobbie and wreaths I made before she was born, the real painted eggs we brought back from Austria, crocheted Santas my late grandfather made and croched beaded bells my late grandmother did. I think the ornaments are my favorite. So many memories! Again this year I’ve gotten the dated Precious Moment ornaments for her. (If she reads this she’ll know, but she probably knows anyway) Someday soon, she will be on her own, not able to be here on Christmas and will have them to trim her first tree.

    The cold has arrived. The wind is howling sending wind chills down into the teens. This weekend, starting tonight, I make potica bread… four are needed by Monday… and so it begins. Time to break out the Manneheim Steamroller Christmas.

    Uh, how do you feel about Sophie seeing a criminal? Mr. Rhett is in the slammer this week.

  6. that is a beautiful tree Vicki. I have succumbed to buying a artificial pre-lit tree. You know us Hindus, we’ll put up millions of lights and set off firecrackers in the middle of winter to celebrate Diwali…but to buy a real tree is like heresay!…maybe one day I’ll find someone who will force me to go tree hunting, til then I can only dream 😉

  7. Such a fun post. Lovely tree.

  8. I’m still not sure if we’re doing one this year, but my guess is no; neither of us has the time or energy. I’ll just live vicariously through you this year – I can’t wait to see your tree when it’s all done up!

  9. Good luck on the tree hunt. We’re doing our’s this weekend too. Our problem is that we go with another family (tradition) and they want a blue spruce whereas we’ll settle only for a Scotch pine. Few lots around here have both. Last year we ended up getting our tree at Lowe’s.

    So this year we’re heading west to find a lot with both, come heck or high water. We may end up out by you.

  10. A lovely post. Decorating a tree does bring forth all sorts of memories, doesn’t it. I have those ornaments that mark periods in my children’s lives…Strawberry Shortcake, Sesame Street. They each have ornaments that their grandparents got for them.

    Each year as I take them out of the box, I have such wonderful memories of years past, and now with the new granddaughter, new memories to be made.

  11. We have a fraser fir also. Smells so good!
    Your’s is beautiful!

  12. I think you found the prefect tree – can’t wait to see it all done up nice.

    I think it’s more telling to talk about who takes down the tree – that is a thankless and depressing job that my husband gets stuck with every year.

  13. What a beautiful post! Now excuse me while I go sob my ass over because I am sad that I didn’t get to come see you last weekend.

  14. You have chosen a beautiful tree. I love the solitude of quietly decorating the tree. My kids would be angry with me if I did it alone without them now.

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