"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.