I just haven’t had much Christmas spirit the past several years. I’m not sure why–maybe the holidays were just more fun when I didn’t have to worry about buying gifts, was too young to care who’s feelings I might hurt if I didn’t get to see them, or when my metabolism allowed the holiday goodies to be a treat rather than something that would make my ass look like it had hail damage.
Christmas used to be my favorite time of year. The smells, the sights, the gifts, the breaks from school. Now, I get a little burst of spirit when the decorations go up, and a few hours worth on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but the rest of the season I am “Bah Humbug.” And I am apparently not alone. Already this holiday season I’ve seen several “Scrooge” postings in the blogosphere. I suspect I’ll see more as the pressures of cooking, shopping, and traveling take their tolls.
So I’ve been trying to get myself into the spirit by recalling those wonderful past Christmases. And I find that many of the best ones involve the Christmas tree and decorations. I’ve always loved a Christmas tree. As a child, we always had a real tree, and the smell of pine would fill the house. My mom (in her pre-crazy days) made almost all of the decorations for our tree while she was pregnant with my sister–snowflakes made of loops of lace, angels, small wreaths, and decorative bows. And even though these beautiful ornaments were ruined by the addition of gold metallic garland and the silver “icycle” drape of the 80’s, I always felt like everyone else’s tree–with their store bought bulbs–paled in comparison.
Mom always waited til “the second weekend in December” to put the tree up, for fear that it would “dry out” if put up earlier. (A sensible fear given that she heated our home to near-crematory temperatures). While we were never allowed to help decorate the tree, save for hanging a few “special” ornaments, we always went to select it. It was always a blue spruce, always from the tree lot at our local drive-in restaurant, and I had a knack for picking just the right shape.
One second weekend in December, mom, sister, and I went to get the tree. Having selected the perfect one, the folks at the tree farm strapped our tree to the trunk of mom’s Honda Accord (who thought THAT was a good idea?). Well, you guessed it. Not even halfway home, the twine snapped, and our blue spruce rolled off the trunk and into traffic. I burst into tears. But, save for a few broken branches, it survived.
Another year, the tree was up and decorated when we all noticed an the occasional scent of poo. After a day or so of accusing one another of fouling the air, we discovered that the tree had been dragged through dog mess on the way into the house. The decorations had to come off, the tree dragged back outside for a thorough wash down.
My dad and stepmom bought a new home when I was about ten…moving into it just before Thanksgiving. I had visions of a mammoth tree sitting in one corner of their two-story living room. “Too much trouble!” they said. But I secretly hoped every year that we could get the HUGE tree I dreamed of. One year, my stepmom and I decided to go to one of those farms and cut our own tree. Picky as I was, we walked all over the snow and ice covered farm trying to find a perfectly shaped one, only to give up when none satisfied me. On the way home, we stopped at a lot that was selling cut trees. The snow and ice that had fallen that day made it hard to distinguish the shape of the trees, but we found one that seemed full and shapely. We took it home, got it in the stand, and let it thaw for a few hours before we returned to find the ugliest Charlie Brown Christmas tree we had ever had. The now-thawed branches stood up to reveal holes, a lopsided shape, and way too much trunk at the bottom.
When I turned 16, dad left me his station wagon and enough money to go get the usual 7′ tree while they were at work one day. But I had other plans. Using some of my own money, I instead chose a 12′ beast that had to be delivered to our home on a flat bed truck. They weren’t pleased, but we already had the tree, so what could they do? The giant tree was decked out in lights and ornaments, and I was thrilled–it looked great, and I had the smug satisfaction of thinking I’d been right all along about what size tree we needed. Until a week later, that is, when the cat climbed into it and it crashed into the middle of the living room–breaking half the ornaments and dumping gallons of water all over our gifts. The tree was reassembled, attached to the ceiling beams with wire, and on Christmas morning we opened quite a few water-stained packages. I believe that was the last year they got a real tree.