Thursday, 24 December 2009

Big Blinking Tree

I remember the annual Christmas tree hunt when I was very small. Mom was very particular about how her trees looked. They didn’t just have to be tall, they had to be full and symmetrical. My dad was generally fairly patient with her pickiness, but it sometimes got a little tense. It was a joint thing, these live (well, freshly dead) trees, because my Dad not only had to haul the thing home, roped to the top of the car, but he also had to do come carpentry to make a big wooden 'X' to nail to the bottom of the tree.

We had large cedar trees lining the back fence and she sometimes took cuttings to wire into her tree to make it fuller. I mainly remember the cold and the tree smell and the crowds of shoppers in the Christmas tree lot. I’m sure that was before they invented fake trees, or at least ones good enough to meet Mom's standards. Soon after these became common, she invested in one, an 8 footer, which meant at our house that it touched the ceiling.

It seemed to me that it took days for the tree to get decorated, but perhaps this was in later years when Mom was older. Back when I was small, Christmas lights came with separate bulbs, packed away out of the sockets to keep them from banging together. Testing the bulbs was my job and every year Mom warned me to keep my fingers out of the light socket, it would hurt. As with hot irons and hot chili peppers, I had to test the theory; she was right. There was an old metal star for the top of the tree and it was also my job to choose the colour of the bulb that would go in the centre each year. Bill has a saying “There is no such thing as too much garlic”. I think Mom held similar views about lights on her trees.

I’ve mentioned often that Mom collected ornaments for each year. If a date was not part of their design she would write or scrape the date in an inconspicuous location. When I was 4 she let me scrape the date on a few; the 1960 is very wobbly. After the lights and the ornaments came silver icicles. They could only go on one or two at a time, not in big clumps. They were collected in a fold of newspaper when the tree came down, for use again the following year. Some of my icicles are crinkly with age, and of course I like those the best. The finished product was a pyramid that touched the ceiling, blinking and sparkling, sometimes with sound effects (bird calls or Christmas jingles) but showing very little green.

I know there are people who go for monochrome or other colour schemes for their Christmas trees and (crazy) people who get rid of the old each year to buy new. The department store displays are very pretty but I’ve never wanted a Christmas tree that looked any different to the ones Mom put up and I don’t expect I ever will.

PS. This is Bill's first Christmas without his Mum. When he came across her little tree in the loft, he brought it down and put it in the front porch. When I finished decorating our tree, I added her tiny white wooden ornaments I found in a box. The others are ones Mom made sometime back in the '80s. The dancing little chappie is our 2009 ornament, from Stillwater, Minnesota.


Anonymous said...

Jason put up our tree so it is very much a lopsided dis organised chaos with every ornament possible on it. But it somehow embodies the happiness of Christmas. Hope you have a great day. love Chris and Jane

Struggler said...

Thank you for the tour of your tree, you clearly have many, many happy Christmas memories!
Very best to you and yours.

Shelley said...

Jane -- A grandchild's version of a Christmas tree must be automatically the perfect kind, surely! Included in part of the discussions on Boxing Day were those around children's names that would be good/not good, so at least they are considering the idea. I guess Bill can live in hope...

Anonymous said...

Our tree always has ornaments given to me/us over the years as well as those I have made. The granddaughters were delighted when the ornament their father made and the one that Uncle Alex made were pointed out.

Shelley said...

Joanne - Isn't that one of the funnest parts of having unique ornaments, getting to point them out and tell their story? Bill's kids have heard it all already, but most years I get at least one new audience member.