Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Tree

For the first six years of my life, the Christmas tree appeared on Christmas morning, completely trimmed, glittering with tinsel, gifts piled beneath it. We had hung our stockings from the mantel over the fireplace the night before. When we woke on Christmas morning, they were lying at the foot of the bed, full of good things. We emptied them there in bed, where we were then served a light breakfast - YES - before we were allowed to go downstairs to see the tree. Then when everyone had assembled, it was down a few steps to the landing, and that breathless moment as we turned the corner to the final steps. From the landing, we could see the tree!

I remember one year when I had some childhood disease - mumps I think. I'm not really sure. I got as far as the landing, took one look, said it was pretty, and went right back up to bed. I just wasn't up to Christmas that year - at least until the next day.

The big feature in those days was the lights. And every year my mother would tell me that when she was a girl there were real candles on the tree. The grown ups would get them all lit, Papa would stand to one side with a bucket of water, and they would be allowed to enter the front parlor, spend a few moments oooing and ahhing, and then the candles would be extinguished. And wasn't I lucky to be able to see the tree lights on all day long?

After my parents were divorced, when I was seven, I was allowed to accompany my mother to the tree lot each year to pick out the perfect tree. "Perfect" never seemed to be as big as the one I wanted. But I did love going to the lot. It smelled so wonderful! We lugged it home and trimmed it together. That was fun! I highly recommend that the whole family trim the tree together. Much better to allow the children to help. After all, Santa has enough to do on Christmas Eve without having to stop to do that at each house.

Two months after Ralph and I were married, we celebrated our first Christmas together. We had bought a star for the top of the tree, and some little accordion shaped, multi-colored ornaments. We added lights, strung popcorn, and hung it with candy canes. By our second Christmas we had added more ornaments, and the following week we brought home our first child and laid her under the tree as the best gift we had ever received.

There has to be some sort of order to the decorating of the tree. Lights must go on first. there should be a white one at the top to go inside the star, if that's what you put on top. I usually put the star on right away. And then I add the angel in front and just below it. I made this angel from plastic canvas. Then popcorn chains - or paper ones, if your child has made them.

The first ornament I always have added for the past forty-some years is the Christmas Dog. Our oldest cut it out of orange construction paper - an unidentifiable shape - and handed it to me as I was trimming the tree when she was very small. She asked me to put it on the tree. How could I have refused? Of course we displayed it proudly and have done so every year since. There's also a yellow construction paper star with a face made of glitter. That one is from my youngest, made in kindergarten class.

Then come the Jesse Tree symbols. These are home made, as are the snow flakes we scattered among the branches, some made by me, some by my sister.

A great many of our ornaments have been home made. They are cloth or paper, crocheted or needle point or ceramic, all mixed in with the more professional glass, wood and metal. Many we bought ourselves, for various occasions. Many were gifts. Souveniers of our travels or of my youngest daughter's travels, representing people and places that we love, many countries and many faiths and cultures. No matter what holidays people observe or what belief they profess, they are all basically the same moral values. Wars are fought over trivial differences. This is the season above all others when we should focus on basic beliefs rather than the different ways in which we choose to express them.

My brother and his wife used single color themes for their trees, different each year. Many trees in Cape May are strictly in the Victorian era theme. I have seen trees trimmed entirely with teddy bears or with sea shells. Our own trees were always sentimental affairs - nostalgic - each ornament as it was re-discovered each year, bringing a happy memory.

There are themes of course. There are a great many Santas. Many angels, birds, lighthouses, even a butterfly or two.

I have at times decorated my tree alone. More often with my mother, my husband, my children, and sometimes with friends of various colors, religions, nationalities and cultural backgrounds. They were sometimes artificial trees, cut trees, or the best kind - live trees that I could plant later. When they had been trimmed they were always a beautiful hodge-podge of color. Nothing sleek or sophisicated or stylish. Just color, warmth and love.


Rambling Woods said...

This is a beautiful post full of memories Bobbie..I too have the much loved decorations made by our daughter..Michelle

Sylvia K said...

It's such fun to read what a big thing Christmas has been throughout your life and I have to admit to feeling a little wistful as there wasn't much celebration beyond a half-hearted, attempt by my parents, who could have cared less. So, that's how I viewed Christmas until my own children were born and we made a huge, wonderful, colorful, exciting time of nearly the entire month of December, with a beautiful tree, lots of story time and music and I sewed gifts for months prior to the big day. My son, Adam, and I don't do as much these days, but we still enjoy the beauty of the season. Thanks, Bobbie, for sharing yours!


kenju said...

Color, warmth and love make for the very best trees, Bobbie!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, Bobbie. Over here, the trimmings seem to go up in people's houses earlier every year. I think 'too much' Christmas spoils it somewhat. We have to put our tree up on 1st December (on our daughters orders) and the rest of the decorations go up after 11th (our younger's birthday). For me, the ideal time would be Christmas Eve - up and the day after Boxing Day (you don't have that, do you?) - down! Haha! Still, I suppose you've got to keep them up for the entire 12 Days. By the way, how did you get the groovy snow effect on your blog?

bobbie said...

Thanks for your comments.

Singing Bear - the snow comes from: http://www.bloggerbuster.com/ 2008/12/simple-snow-effect- widget-for-blogger.html

I know there are others - some thicker flakes and faster snow fall.

Daryl said...

What a lovely post ... I miss trimming my friend's tree with her and her son. He's grown, married and has his own child now ... she's only 5 months old but this is her first Christmas and I am sure it will be exciting!

Unknown said...

Such a heart-warming post. I appreciate the lovingly photographed ornaments - the best kind: made with love.

Our tree is very much the same. When WP and I combined our respective family ornaments, we have many made by our four daughters, some handed some from our own childhoods, those collected from various travels over the years and a few we chose together due to their special meaning. The tree is all about the love of family and the preservation of traditions.

There are rich people, from what I understand, who hire professional tree decorators so their tree will be different every year. That is so odd to me.

Dianne said...

every ornament means something, I love that

I have the very same angel Bobbie, that makes me smile

wonderful memories

Kay said...

This is such a beautiful post, Bobbie. I loved reading about your memories. A tree decorated wih love and memories is the best kind by far.

me ann my camera said...

What a wonderful collection of Christmas ornaments and memories that all go into decorating your treeIi love hearing of all the special things and memories my geandchildren are sccumulating as they experience each Christmas.

Linda Murphy said...

I love seeing all of the beautiful ornaments and knowing each has a story-I think that's a big part of the holidays. Making lasting stories and memories that we can relive as we place them on display. The little pink angel is so cute!

We have ton of Snoopy ornaments-which I have always loved. But we also have the ornaments we made as children and now my children are beginning to add to the collection. So much fun.