When do you put up your Christmas tree? My grandparents never put theirs up before the kiddies were packed off to dreamland on Christmas Eve. This I know because one of our family’s Christmas traditions was my grandmother recounting the story of my two-year old aunt waking up one Christmas morning long ago. On catching sight of the glittering tree in the corner of the living room, young Marjory’s eyes grew wide. She pointed in wonder and exclaimed in a shrill little voice, “the tee, the tee!” After about three decades, my grandmother’s quavering voice once again trilling ”the tee, the tee,” became enough to drive my mother into the kitchen where I would find her muttering about not being held responsible for what would happen if she heard that damn ”the tee, the tee” story one more damn time, while she scrounged in the drawer by the stove for the carving knife she used to dismember the turkey.
My parents usually put up their tree the weekend before Christmas. My father was assigned the task of putting the lights up because my mother was too short to reach the top. It was always a struggle. My father was never really handy and was easily defeated by anything the least bit technical. Like turning on the stove. Like plugging in lights. So, typically, putting up the Christmas tree lights resulted in lot of #*@&%# words which is how Oh Christmas Tree, You SOB became the official family Christmas carol sometime in the late 1960s.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Christmas has been transformed from a day to a season. The season starts right after Hallowe’en. My parents and grandparents would rightly think me daft, because I’ll be putting up our tree in the first week of December or I won’t find a little Scotch pine left anywhere. They’ll be gone, baby, gone; all that will be left will be tall, scraggly spruces. No thanks. I like my trees like I like my men: short and a wee bit plump. (Just kidding, Greg. You are perfect, honey.)
As I’m gearing up the Christmas preparations, I’m thinking maybe this is the year I break with our traditional approach to decorating the Christmas tree. Maybe this is the year to embrace change, get radical, go for glam and stylish instead of decorating with the usual mish mash of unbreakable ornaments collected over the years. Maybe this year our Christmas tree should be more colour-coordinated, more sophisticated. Like these:
AHHHH! Gorgeous, yes? Yes! But I have a vague notion that this might also be very enticing to one long-haired green-eyed tabby. I have the niggling feeling this would be rather expensive in terms of time and money, neither of which are ever as plentiful as I would like. Worst of all, if I’m totally honest with myself, I’m pretty sure I’d lose interest half way through such an elaborate project. So on second thought, nahhh. Not for us.
Maybe we can do a stylish and sophisticated tree an easier way? Maybe this is my year to downsize the tree to a mere branch or two, my year to embrace pure simplicity. Like this:
AHHHH! Gorgeous, yes? Yes! This looks good. Very, very good. I bet I can probably decorate one or two little itsy bitsy burlap wrapped twigs like this in a single chorus of Oh Christmas Tree, You SOB. But I also think I might really, really need that to-die-for blind to go behind the little trees and then that means redecorating of the living room, ’cause my stacks of books and magazines just aren’t quite in sync with the serene look. Hmmm. I just talked myself out of this, too.
Guess that means we’ll stick with decorating our tree with gold spray painted macaroni ornaments that the kids made at school. Maybe that’s the best anyway. Christmas is a time for family even if family sometimes drive us crazy. It’s a time for building memories, even if some of the memories aren’t quite Hallmark moments of sweetness and light. So our tree will be decorated with family memories instead of store bought style. I’ll hang the pine cones I picked up in our yard and decorated with red and gold glitter when we were first married and paying down the mortgage. I’ll hang the wooden blocks my mother gave me when I was afraid our toddlers would break glass balls. I’ll hang my grandmother’s red cardinal ornament up high, where it always goes, so it’s out of reach of little hands and paws. I’ll hang the Star of David that Ben made at nursery school and the crumpled wrapping paper and red yarn ornament that Paul made in kindergarten. I’ll sing Oh Christmas Tree, You SOB while I hang these ornament on our little Christams tree.
Then we’ll look forward to the new memories we’ll create together on Christmas day, as the family gathers around the tree.