Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh Tannenbaum

     My large yellow and white cat, Tip, has taken up residence at the foot of the Christmas tree. He’s tucked between the shepherds who are keeping watch over their flocks and the stable where the baby Jesus lies. Tip loved the tree as soon as we pulled it upright, and now that I’ve added the manger scene, he sleeps beside the baby Jesus.
     I didn’t want a Christmas tree this year. My plan had been to go the easy route and buy a four foot tall, pre-lit fake. Then, Joe asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I surprised myself by asking for a trip to the mountain with the family to pick out a tree followed by a decorating party. I’m so glad I did. The spicy smell of the tree greets me every time I walk in the room and it’s loaded with ornaments that bring special memories to mind. Scott’s girlfriend laughed as we topped the tree with a fragile paper doily angel he crafted in Sunday School when he was six. It has a photograph of his face where the angel’s head should be and he is not smiling. His sullen expression contrasts so beautifully with the laciness of his angel attire, and his frown leaves no doubts. Boys don’t like wearing dresses. Then there’s the six inch cardboard circle carefully constructed by Justin when he was about ten. He cut a picture of a large white-tail buck out of a magazine and I can still see his serious expression as he glued it onto his ornament. He had picked the most beautiful thing he could find for decking the tree. Justin’s girlfriend, Rachel, hung it tenderly in a place of honor. The lights were wrapped around the top two thirds of the tree because all of my men are over six feet tall and, as they passed the lights from hand to hand around the tree, it never occurred to them to bend over. So, the tree has a haphazard look.
     But, I don’t envy my neighbor’s carefully constructed Christmas trees: lights placed just so, fragile glass ornaments which emerge from layers of fluffy tissue paper, color schemes that match the furniture. My tree is lopsided, but Justin picked it out. We took a truck up through the snowy field to the base of the mountain. Joe, Lori my neighbor, and I rode in the front, while Justin and Scott bounced in the back. When the slick snow stranded us, we jumped out and walked the rest of the way up the mountain. Scott was distracted by coyote tracks, but Justin strode up the steep face of the mountain with the chainsaw perched on his shoulder and within minutes I heard the welcome growl of the saw coming to life. It wasn’t long before he slid back down the hill with the tree in tow.
     Our Christmas tree is a cedar. It was prickly to decorate and it was shaped by deer and wind, so it has a large hole on one side, but the smell and memories of the harvest make up for that. It’s not at all like our first tree. For the very first Christmas tree of our married life, I convinced Joe to go to a tree farm. I had definite ideas about what the tree should look like but Joe, having never bought a tree before, was appalled by the prices. We argued from tree to tree and when we finally brought one home it was pretty, but there was no joy in its branches. The next year we went to the mountain. I couldn’t find a perfect tree, but we weren’t paying money for it, so it didn’t matter. We laughed as we trekked around the mountain surveying our lopsided choices, and the tree that decorated our living room that year carried that laughter with it.
     Ever since then, our trees have come off the mountain. I think Tip likes lying under this one because it was picked out with such joy. I hope the baby Jesus feels it, too.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post! It reminds me of the year our house was on the market and a tree would have made the living room look too small plus been messy. I decided we'd settle for a three-foot table-top artificial tree in our entryway. It made me so sad every time I passed it that I bought a 7' slim, pre-lit artificial tree and put it up about a week before Christmas. We LOVED that tree.

    We go to tree farms every year because hubby likes the smell and of a blue spruce, but that artificial tree has come in handy those years we were traveling for Christmas. It's really not a bad substitute, but it IS a substitute. The real thing is pretty special.