Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas Eve Tree Tales

As a child, I recall, we always put our tree up on Christmas Eve.

In fact. there were a few years there where we actually bought the tree on Christmas Eve. I believe those may have been a matter of Dad "making a point." (He could be quite stubborn and determined at times. ) There were a couple of times when I remember a real life scenario depicted in so many heartwarming Christmas movies. You know the ones where the family arrives at the tree sale just as they're closing and there are only a few trees left to choose from. In the movies, they always find the perfect tree at that moment. I'm here to tell you, there are usually only pitiful imitations of perfect trees left at that point in time.

Charlie Brown had nothing on my Dad when it came to finding a tree. One time the choice was so bad, we actually had to tie two trees together to form one!! (I kid you not.) Tinsel, lots and lots of tinsel, can hide a multitude of flaws.
Then there was the year that he simply stayed too long at the office party, wandering in sometime after dark. This may have been the latest he ever pushed things. The fact that we still needed a tree didn't phase him. I, on the other hand was terrified that without a tree, Christmas simply wouldn't happen. Mom was simply perturbed, to put it mildly. (Let me take a moment to clarify, Mom didn't drive so we were dependent on him to get the tree.)

"Never fear," he admonished me, "There are tree lots on every corner around here." At least there WERE, a few hours earlier. By 6 p.m., most had closed down and gone home to celebrate the holiday with their families.

Dad and I set out to get the tree. On our way out of the neighborhood, we noticed one of the local delis had three trees leaning up against the wall with a little handwritten sign stating "Trees for Sale." We laughed at the pitiful twigs and drove by. After 20 minutes or so, going from closed lot to closed lot, we started considering those twigs again. There were only two left when we returned to the corner deli. I don't know what price they were asking but if they paid Dad any less than twenty bucks to take it, he was crazy!!! I was in tears by the time we got it home. (Maybe we should have just cut a bare limb from one of the maples in the yard. It would have had as many needles.) Mom was speechless though I'm sure she later found words and expressed them behind closed doors. It took an inordinate amount of tinsel and ornaments to turn it into a Christmas tree. The deli was called Anchor Bay and, to this day, we call it "the Anchor Bay tree."
There was a major decorating routine and it rarely wavered. Sometimes I think it was Mom's way of sticking it to Dad. (Payback's a B----, you know!) She was always busy elsewhere in the house - doing Christmas dinner preps, wrapping gifts, whatever. Dad set the tree up and got the lights situated. Then, he supervised the decorating. He was usually assisted in this job by our hapless, bachelor neighbor, Jim.

Our tree was always situated in the center of our large bay window and Dad and Jim would sit in chairs against the opposite wall, with cocktails in hand, and shout out things like, "You need a red one down there", or "Put some color in that section", "Hang a long one over there", etc.

There was always at least one crash of a beautiful and treasured ornament in the process. I can still see my brother perched on a 6' ladder and staring down at the pieces of ornament he had just dropped. Poor Neal. It was always one of the ancient ones Mom claimed had come from her paternal grandparents. She usually was a bit upset but quietly swept up the broken glass. As a kid, I thought she over-reacted. Now, I can feel her pain. I've lost quite a few important old and irreplaceable ornaments myself.

Somehow, it always came together, Mom would come in and "ooh" and "ahh" over the finished product and we'd be pleased. Then, there would often be popcorn or brownies for the exhausted decorating committee.

All was well with the world.

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