Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tree-Top Christmas

            In the mid-seventies, a fire gutted my parents’ house. Of course, there was the initial shock and depression that accompanies such a traumatic event, but as with most tragedies in life, good things followed. In my parents’ case, the good things came in a house that, while not entirely new, was completely remodeled and refreshed. And since many of the Christmas decorations had been stored in the attic—where the fire started—Mama was able to celebrate the first Christmas in her beautifully restored house with new Christmas finery. Replacing the pitiful, “Charlie Brown” live trees we’d always had in the past was an artificial tree with full and perfectly arranged branches. Like most of these trees, it came in three sections and reached all the way to the ceiling. Instead of the scratched, lusterless ornaments that had survived decades of being tossed willy-nilly into a box after Christmas, there were elegant decorations in the form of red velvet bows and snowy-feathered doves.

            The fake tree and fake doves and velvet bows faithfully served for years. But eventually, the doves’ feathers yellowed. They also lost their “fluffiness,” as did the bows. The tree, however, continued to stand stalwart and tall for years to come. At Christmas time, my sister, brother, and I would return home with our growing families to find the tree decked out in more traditional decorations of colored lights, shiny balls, and ornaments hand-made by grandkids.
The Hallmark dream
            As we all grew older, the tree began to shrink, and I don’t mean in a metaphorical sense. It actually shrank—as in Mama began to leave off the bottom section in order to save space and decorating effort. Then the last couple of Christmases she decorated, we found only the top section of the tree placed squarely in the middle of the coffee table.
            While I didn’t always achieve it—I always dreamed of a Hallmark kind of Christmas. For me, there was no such thing as too many lights or too much sparkle and shine. So the first time I saw that topper excuse for a tree on Mama’s table, I remember hoping I never came to that place. That place where shiny ornaments and twinkling lights and a glittering tree wouldn’t fill me with giddy pleasure.
            You know what I’m about to say.
The tree-top Christmas reality
            Yes, I’ve come to that place. Almost. I haven’t completely abandoned decorating a la Clark Griswold, but when my daughter moved to another state and married, we adopted the every-other-year plan. We alternate the Christmas venues—our house one year, her house the next. For a while, I continued to do my annual decorating. But a couple of years ago I got smart.  Now, I have a tree-top Christmas every other year. Like Mama, I make a nod toward decorating—a few outside lights, a wreath here, a Santa there, and, of course, a nativity scene. But it’s not a winter fantasy by a long-shot.  
            And you know what? I kind of like downsizing my Christmas decorating. Downsizing every other year means that every other year I can take it easy. I can take time to actually enjoy shopping and baking and attending parties and events. I can spend more time reflecting on the meaning of the season. I can ooh and aah over other people’s decorations. And every other year, I can miss out on the after-Christmas slump of taking down and packing away tubs of decorations.
            Maybe it’s a sign of age, but this year I’m rather enjoying my tree-top Christmas. Hope you're enjoying your Christmas preparations, too, whether tree-top, Hallmark, or somwhere in between.   


  1. I quit overdoing Christmas for the first time in 51 years. No huge tree to be lugged back to storage (usually during a snow or ice storm). Since the big dinner isn't at our house, I've chosen to sprinkle holiday reminders around for the grandbabes when they visit before Santa comes to their house. Meanwhile, I'll rest.

  2. Thank you! And thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.


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