A dark-skinned angel with golden wings and a billowing white gown looks down on our living room from atop the fir. She Who Must Be Loved elevated the angel in honor of her – our – granddaughters, hers because they were here when I got here, ours because, well, they’re ours now.
Christmas is like that – a time for traditions.
Like the star snuggled among the mid-tree branches. It’s like the one Darren McGavin places atop his family tree once every hour and-a-half for 24 hours in “A Christmas Story.” Mine used to be top our Christmas tree when I was Ralphie’s age.
My younger brother and I went with Dad to find the Christmas tree. Somehow, we could never find one close to the house. Always it had to be across the forest, where the snow was drifted up to my waist.
Dad worked at the Western Auto in the county seat, so tree hunting during the short days of December was limited to the Sunday before Christmas Eve. We boys, being inexperienced in the clever art of Christmas tree discernment, rarely picked a good one; Dad would encourage us to look, then carefully point out the weaknesses of our choices.
“This one, see, has a big bare spot right here” … “this other one is too short” … “this one has too many brown-needled branches.”
“Ah! Now this one,” he’d finally say, with the air of a man who has discovered the arboreal perfection, “this is what you look for.”
Just over the snowbank pushed up from the recent storm, stood the perfect specimen. But first, we should shake the snow off it. Just reach in there, grab the trunk, and shake.
“Hey, that’s great,” John the Elder proclaimed. “Now brush the snow out from under your collar, son.”
He cut the tree down with the small bucksaw I’d been carrying and Rich and I dragged it home.
The tree stood in the snow utside the kitchen door until Christmas Eve. Mom took us kids to Midnight Mass, sometimes Dad went, too, and sometime after we got home and we kids were dreaming of reindeer, Santa brought the tree inside, hung the lead icicles and bubbly lights, and piled presents around it.
He was really quiet, too. The first we heard of him was a string of bells and a deep voice calling “Ho Ho Hoooo Merry Christmas” and Dad outside our window yelling at the guy to “come back here so my kids can see you!”
Darned if I know how he got in the house. The only chimney we had was the eight-inch flue over the oil burner, but somehow Santa had got down it without scattering soot on the basement floor. And he took the time to eat the cookies we had left piled on a plate alongside the glass of milk on the coffee table. If I ate that many cookies, Mom would threaten me with permanent belly-aches.
Our tree is up earlier than those of my childhood, and it wasn’t dragged through snow, but it smells good, and it’s a living record of some great years – and reason to want a few more.
Our current tree is bedecked with souvenir ornaments from the many places The Resident Navigator and I have traveled together – New York to see “Phantom of the Opera,” Paris for a thoroughly enjoyable kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and a few grand kids, nieces and nephews and other pets who’ve shared our abode.
Some of the memories are plastic, but none are fake.
Merry Almost Christmas, and great memories to all!
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