"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tradition... Tradition!

Remember the last post, where I said that getting our Christmas tree was pretty inconsequential? Yeah, about that...

I suppose, picking out the tree, strapping it to the roof of the minivan and getting it home were ho-hum stuff. Once home, I spent a day trying to decorate it, while fielding phone calls and emails about my son's choir activities that I, as choir booster club president, am somehow in charge of handling. Mix these distractions with the fact that I am allergic to live Christmas trees, and it's no wonder it took me all day to hang ornaments.

The allergy is a new one - it began two years ago and is now to the point where I break out, itch, and my eyes water. I need to break down and get an artificial tree. I know this. A beautiful, fake green tree, a pre-lit one. It would save me, both in decorating time and the cost of Benedryl.

Like this:

(BTW, this one is On Sale for $749.)

Call me a product of "A Charlie Brown Christmas", but I just can't. I need to go and look for That Special Tree. A tree with personality, with attitude, with quirks. Over the years, I've had short squatty trees, tall skinny trees, trees with limbs too limp to hold any ornaments, trees that shoved themselves against the corner to hide a bald spot - one year I even had a tree that leaned out into the living room with a rather menacing glare. We chopped that one up before we put it on the curb.

So this year I braved red blotches and burning eyes for this:

Isn't it lovely? Okay, go ahead, say it: it's crooked. Actually, it's not so much crooked as leaning, but not in a menacing way, just a tired one. The fact that the topmost branch is not quite strong enough to hold up my Las Vegas Star of Bethlehem adds to the askew-ness of the whole visual.

Like the tree topper? I found it at a drugstore, after my previous tree topper up and died. It was a pink, mosque-shaped affair, with a faceless plastic angel leaning out of one of the spun-fiber (perhaps asbestos) windows. An ex-husband pronounced it "hideous beyond all reason" but I loved it.

In addition to my questionable taste in tree toppers, I'm not big on the matchy-matchy ornaments. I prefer the ones that have a history to them. For example, there's this:

It's the first ornament I ever got, and it's the first one I hang on the tree. When I was in kindergarten, a boy's mother sewed it for me. Notice the upside-down "G". It used to bother me, but now I find it endearing.

Like this one:

Made for me by my friend La La. Her name is really Laura, but she used to work at a school for the VERY physically disabled (as in, "So-and-so won't be in today because she died last night"). There was only one student who could speak, and she pronounced her name "La La." It stuck.

Or this one:

My friend's mother hand-painted this for me. She tried to give the angel red hair, like mine, but it ended up pink. Maybe when I go completely gray, I'll try pink.

And then there are family treasures, like this:

This is the stocking we had to hang every year for this guy:

My son's security "blanket" was a Simba he spotted in Mervyn's (now defunct) as a two-year old. He grabbed the package and held onto it through the store.

"Are we buying that?" Dale asked.

I pulled on the package once and was met with 2-year old resistance. "I guess so."

Simba went everywhere and did everything. He survived a few rounds in the washer and dryer after he got wet, dirty, or thrown up on. And every Christmas, Santa had to figure out what to put in a stuffed animal's stocking. Thus, the sweatshirt. Sometimes he got a collar, sometimes a sweater. Santa shopped at Petsmart.

Simba spends his days on top of Marcus' shelves now, seemingly ignored, although when I got him out to take his picture, Marcus said, "Hey - where are you taking him?" I could almost feel a force-field, as if I wouldn't be able to pass beyond the bedroom door with the bedraggled lion.

But I digress. When I think of putting these odd little assortments on a gloriously perfect (if fake) tree, it almost feels like I'm committing a crime. If I go fake, I'd rather go all the way.

My grandmother had one of these. She also had this:

It rotated as it played two or three high, tinny Christmas tunes, changing the color of the tree from green to blue to red to yellow. The colors were nice to watch, but the music gave everyone a nervous twitch after about ten minutes. I certainly could not hang my oddities on the aluminum branches, but it would announce to the world that I am proud to have a fake tree for Christmas. On my own terms, of course.

What about you? No matter what you celebrate at this time of year, are there traditions that you absolutely CANNOT abandon? Please share!


Ruth said...

Oh dear yes, we had one of those aluminum trees when I was in high school. It was mesmerizing.

We had to get a fake tree when our son developed his allergies two years ago too. It's a nice one. But this year since he won't be home for Christmas, we got another Frasier Fir. Sad and happy.

You are so right about the history of the ornaments. It's like having a museum display right in our family room.

dino martin peters said...

Dear Miss Gayle Carline, thanks for such a personal post during this Christmastime....I love trees that show their personality....first thing that I appreciated seeing was that the tree was leaning a bit...thanks for the story of Simba...may your Christmas be gentle and joy-filled...

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