Well, is your Christmas tree up and decorated? There's still another week in our household before I even think of bringing the box up from the basement and beginning to assembly and decorate our tree. Two weeks before Christmas to two weeks after. That's the 'rule'. It will be different this year, though, and a challenge, because it will be the first time I'll do it without the assistance of one or both of my sons. One of them was always there to help string the lights while the other got garland duty. I plan to leave their own personal ornaments aside for them to hang when they come home on leave, but the rest will be all me. The realization this will pretty much be a solo venture my husband works shift work, and usually the opposite shift from mine caused me to start thinking about past Christmas trees. While one Christmas and their associated tree are all pretty much the same, some events do cause some trees to be more memorable than others.
One of my earliest memories is choosing our tree. (Yes, I lived in the days when artificial trees were not an option.) We would journey to the fireman's tree lot beside the skating arena and carefully choose our tree. One year, as I was trying to go so sleep, I heard a crash (and a few words a child my age was not supposed to hear) coming from the living room. You guessed it, the tree and all of its glass ornaments and colored light bulbs and stringy silver icicles had tumbled over. Inconvenient because of the mess it made, but not too big of a deal, except my dad is a model railroader and we always had a model train layout under our tree. Train layout plus fallen Christmas tree does not equal a happy father. To my knowledge, though the train is still present under the tree, dad has never had another tree fall on his beloved layout.
Next came the years of aluminum Christmas trees. They were all the rage. We never had one, but my grandfather was 'in' to all the latest trends and gadgets. I will never forget their silver aluminum Christmas tree. It stood about 5 or 6 feet tall. Now, this tree had ornaments, but no lights because, you see, Grandpa had also purchased the rotating colored disk that turned and changed that silver tree from red, to blue, to yellow. (I'm not sure there was a green section on that disk. I don't know why. It was, after all, a tree.) In its day, it was a wonder to behold, this artificial Christmas tree. The church I grew up in had 5 or 6 of these silver wonders with their rotating colored disks lining the huge plate glass windows of the balcony overlooking a major highway leading through town. Modern to the hilt!
Moving into the present, our own tree usually goes up during a Sunday afternoon Steelers football game. One year, it was time to put the tree up and the Steelers played on Monday night. Ah, no big deal. You would think. No matter how my son and I tried, nothing about that tree would work. The branches wouldn't shape correctly, the lights wouldn't work, or, if they did finally work, once we put them on the tree they would stop working. Our solution - put in a tape of a previous Steelers game. Would you believe once we put on a football game the problems with the tree stopped? Never again will I put up a tree on a non-football Sunday!
Of course there is the year of the meowing tree. Cats have seemed to find their way into our household over the years and one year one of them seemed to feel the Christmas tree was 'the place' to be, probably to hide from the dog. I'm thinking not. That tree visit didn't last long.
Last year the tree went up earlier than it ever had. We were surprised by a visit from our older son who got some unexpected holiday leave. The day after Thanksgiving that tree went up so he could have some Christmas before heading off to his duty post, football game notwithstanding as this was a special circumstance, and each boy added his collection of ornaments to the tree. They both have quite a collection, getting one new ornament each year to match their varied interests. My husband and I, too, get a new, dated ornament each year as well as an extra one that might catch our attention. Christmas trees have come a long way since the German immigrants were credited with introducing the idea of a lighted indoor tree to our country. May yours, and the memories it brings, brighten your holiday season.
Sue Sampson is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.