When I was a kid, we got our Christmas trees fresh.
What I mean is, my grandfather had a friend (he had lots of friends) who worked for the Massachusetts Parks Department who would let us come by and "pick a live one."
Some people did it with lobsters; me and Gramps did it with Christmas trees.
Those are the days that are in a special category in my long-term memory--those days when you may find yourself at an unfair advantage against two feet of snow, because you are only twice that height. It seemed unbearable at the time. Now, sometimes, I get on my knees for a minute or two during any given snowstorm and pretend my eye level is a bit more like what it used to be.
It doesn't last long.
And, while I'm not a tall person by any means, I'm glad I didn't stop growing.
I can't ever recall a time where we used a fake tree. It just seemed unnatural, regardless of its convenience. Sure, you may end up having to buy a new vacuum cleaner a bit earlier than you had planned from a few too many sap soaked needles gunking up the works. But you got that smell--that pine-fresh smell.
It simply is Christmas.
That said, a few years ago my mom did buy me a small fiber-optic tree to put in my tiny apartment. Every year I got it out, dusted it off, plugged it in, and decorated it with the tiny, silver musical note ornaments she gave it to me with.
She couldn't let me have a place to lay my head that didn't have a tree at Christmas regardless of if it was made of plastic.
This is from two years ago.
My aunt and I had gone to a wonderful Christmas tree farm for a couple years in a row. They had guys dressed up as Santa all over to cut the tree down fresh for you. I suppose that this is a natural life cycle seeing that you can witness the trees that are growing to be used for future years' Christmases, but my aunt was funny about what she didn't mind snuffing out for personal use.
Cattle or Pork? Never.
Lobsters or Balsams? Absolutely!
This tree was one of my favorites. I named him Lenny Spruce. And my mother found it endlessly amusing that I would name a tree, as she did of many of my silly propensities. And so, the Christmas of 2006, we called our Christmas tree Lenny.
This is from three days ago.
I had gone to Williamsburg to inquire about some hand-forged fireplace tools.
I was going to wait until next week to get my tree, but something overtook me and I had to stop at a local stand and pick out this year's girl.
While it wasn't picked and cut fresh in front of me it was fine and dandy nonetheless. Sometimes these things need to be done quickly and determinedly rather than languorously and methodically. Simply put, it helps get things done.
The man at the tree stand cut the end off for me; sold me a very solid and simple stand; and tied it to the roof of my car.
It all felt right. It all felt proper. It was happening when it should.
And then, of course, I brought it home.
This is my home--the first picture I am showing in what will most likely not be the last.
Not in the picture: the mailbox. It looks just like the house, and pretty much sold me on the place.
I brought it in, and after deciding it was a bit too big to put near the fireplace, decided on the dining room. It was a lovely eventuality as it now has plenty of breathing room and it will be easier to keep up with the watering.
I virtually tore open the Vince Guaraldi, "Peanuts" Christmas album I bought on sale the day before and let the chills take over.
For anyone who has not begun their holiday decorating, this album is a must. I found it at Borders for less than ten bucks, right near the register where it is smartly placed. Forget about trying to catch all those specials when they air on TV. Just get this CD and you will know that all is right with the world.
And then I turned the lights off .
It was as if the show had begun and the whispers in the crowd had turned to silence ... and the music took over ... and everything just melted around me, inside me, and on top of me.
I was doing things as they should be done--at least for me.
And I got out the box labeled "Super Fragile" (which is written in my mother's handwriting and is anything less than a fragile font) and began unwrapping--at a once-a-year methodically slow pace--the "Little People" that have adorned our tree for at least two generations.
The writing on the box says "Circa 1958" in old, wide, red, magic marker on a browned and faded box. I can't remember exactly where they came from, but suffice to say they were the best money could buy at the time. For a family who cut coupons and made due without many frivolities for as long as I can remember, this was a concession they made years ago and I will do whatever it takes to preserve these delicate, ancient, glass ornaments.
I put on the garlands, and the glass bead rope, and the icicles ,and the balls, and the santas, and the little wreaths, and the snowmen, and the reindeer, and all of the other wonderful accouterments that I found inside the magical boxes that I had kidnapped from Mattapoisett ...
... and then I topped it off.
This angel had been in my family for probably fifty or sixty years. This year I had to glue back one of the stars on it, but all in all it has withstood the test of time extremely well.
I suppose it being the apex of a mammoth structure that, by design, emits a forcefield that no man, woman, or (especially) child, could ignore, it has an edge on the preservation angle.
This angel has been placed on every Christmas tree that I have stood in awe in front of. It has been the focal point in a seemingly frenetic landscape of ornaments. And it has stood over, and witnessed more December celebrations than even I have been a part of. Though it is merely a combination of paper, ink, plastic, and staples, it holds so much power in its fibers.
In fact, I chose this tree due to its top. It had a top spire that looked like an angel would feel quite at home resting on. There was no question about it after that.
And this year, as I celebrate the holiday in a different place than is usual, with one less person than last time, I will look up at that angel and feel good about a lot of things--not that it is a necessary piece to make my life complete. For if I could not have found it in amongst the other decorations it would have been unfortunate, but the holiday would not have stopped either. But I did find it, and I did buy my tree--by myself--and I decorated it in my house, with some thrilling and timeless music on the stereo, and I took charge and made sure it was done as it should be done.
And the season's just begun.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
Thanks for reading.
And Happy St. Nicholas Day to you.