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What’s Happening? Ask The Christmas Tree

December 11th, 2017

As I extracted my pre-lit Christmas tree section by section from its overstuffed bag in the garage and dragged each piece into the living room, I had an epiphany of the non-religious kind.

The story of my life from childhood on has been marked by an evolving series of Christmas trees.

First, the long-needled pine. Dad cuts them for free from a friend’s woods in Atlanta. The ornaments slide right off. No problem. They are mostly made out of paper and popcorn. “Right in our budget,” says number-crunching dad.

Scotch pine with blue tags. With more money, less time, glass ornaments and bubble lights, dad agrees to go to a lot, where he says trees with blue tags fit the budget. This leads to conversations about which side can go into which corner when we get it home. I’m pretty sure red tags do not require a corner.

Scotch pine with red tags. Now married, I somehow become dad and declare “blue tags.” After teen-age size eruption from our two boys under 10, I decide life is too short and upgrade to red, but discover there is still no perfect tree.

Scotch pine with any tags. I’m now divorced and remarried. My Jewish husband reluctantly shleps to the tree lot and lets the boys choose any tree in an effort to shorten the ordeal. When he suggests leaving the tree outside to “season” it for awhile, the younger boy, 5, drags it up the stairs singlehandedly to assure himself we are still having Christmas. He makes his stepdad a stocking held together with staples and glue. He and his brother decide to put the tree up themselves and lash it to the windowsill so it won’t fall over. It does anyway.

Hanukkah tree, Part One. Now that we have a Jewish baby. I add Hanukkah ornaments and make her a Christmas stocking decorated with dreidels. Boys quickly adapt to new tradition of getting both Christmas gifts and “gelt” for Hanukkah.

Hanukkah tree, Part Two. Jewish baby is now a teen-ager, and the Hanukkah ornaments must come off. The term “cognitive dissonance” comes up. She is OK, though, with Christmas gifts and Hanukkah gifts. Everyone has secular Santa stockings. I draw a protest from all when I switch from colored to trendier white lights.

Three-quarter tree. Now a widow, I don’t want to bug younger son, now married with child, to help put up a real tree. I order a skinny artificial one designed to fit in a corner and string it with white lights. Everyone laughs and calls it Charlie Brown.

Full-size artificial tree. I’m now remarried to a lapsed Catholic, who comes with advent wreath and full-sized tree. He puts it up and – with painstaking artistry – strings it with huge colored lights. My daughter now confides that she prefers white lights but promises not to mention it.

Pre-lit tree. Widowed again and now aware that I’m an inept light stringer, I splurge on a huge tree pre-strung with white lights that comes in four easy-to-lift sections. I prorate the cost over the next 20 years and feel sure I’ve come in under dad’s blue tag rate. I get it up solo in under 40 minutes.

What’s next? Friends say one of those little ceramic trees with the light bulb base like grandma used to have. I don’t think so. My four-year-old grandson, son of Christmas tree dragger, has already told me that if I ever have trouble getting the tree up, I should text his mother, who will immediately drive him over to help.

I think I’m in business for awhile.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder




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