First, an apology to my Dearest Readers for my seemingly haphazard posting as well as sporadic (at best) responses to your comments. I am actually in Gettysburg at present--have been since Saturday afternoon--for the Remembrance Day events commemorating the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's immortal Address. My gracious hosts, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Dick, have been so wonderful, squiring me about Adams County, showing me the sights not only of the historic offerings, but of the rich history of the outlying areas as well. I am quite busy. I've met one of my Dearest Readers here, too, and we shared a lovely dinner together. I'll have lots of things to tell you soon. But we are still working on Pressure Busting Tips, and I am committed to helping you have a serene Holiday Season. Off we go.
Pressure Busting Tip #17
When I was a little girl, we had a huge extended family Christmas the day after at my Grandma and Grandpa's house less than an hour away. (I've written about their house before, here.) Grandma had seven children, and they'd all come home at Christmas to that house, bringing their children, many of whom had spouses, and then the great-grandchildren, and pretty soon it was a massive affair of thousands of people and food and talking and then, believe it or not, something we cousins had dubbed The Big Bad Gift Exchange followed by The Annual Slide Show (and Giggle Fest). My grandparents were teetotalers--well, at least Grandma was; Grandpa always had a bit of cider going "hard" in the cellar--so the in-laws had to do the whole thing sober. But there was always some humor supplied inadvertently by Grandpa.
One year, we saw that year's laugh as soon as we walked in and looked for the tree under which to place the presents we had brought. There, in the corner, was...one of the few things that had the ability to render me speechless in my life. It was their Christmas Tree. But, not. Oh, it was evergreen. It had a string of lights. There were some ornaments on it. But it was, more precisely, a Branch. The Christmas Branch. But not just one evergreen bough from the pine tree out front. Grandpa had wired a branch jutting out behind on either side as well, in a strange, cockeyed sort of effort to, I guess, add dimension or a sort of trompe l'oeil effect. The whole thing was sitting on top of their little television which was now covered, stand and all, by a bedsheet. I had, quite honestly, no idea--not a single one--what to say. My Grandma, who I adored and worshipped, came out of the kitchen and said, "How do you like that tree? Isn't it pitiful? I told Pop it was just terrible." Almost on cue, Grandpa came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a dishtowel. He winked at all of us kids. "That came right off the pine tree out front," he said. "See here how I wired these other branches back here?" Grandpa always loved to give us all a guided tour of any and all of his projects. That tree met with a variety of responses that day, but most of them were a smile and a shake of the head and some sort of "That's Grandpa!" It got the job done, and it gave us all something to talk about and the historians of the family took, I'm sure, plenty of pictures. Now I wish I had one.
When it comes to our Christmas Tree at home, I am, I admit, pretty picky. I always want a balsam or a Fraser fir. I like the shape--all those nice tiers--and I like the fragrance. I want the trunk nice and straight; I want the shape to be a nice triangle, and I want some nice gaps for my drop ornaments. But I do try to remember that it is a natural tree. I don't expect perfection. And when we decorate, I want a family tree. I wrote about that before, too, here. Some ornaments--like the two from my dad's family tree--always get a place of honor. I love it when my boys hang their own ornaments, the ones they picked out when we had our special day together each year to do just that. I love the ones with their school pictures on them. I want the decorating of the tree to be warm and homey and happy. Grandpa's Christmas Branch, though goofy and contrived, was still warm and homey and happy. And as I said, it gave us all something to talk about, plenty of great memories, and it got the job done. When you decide to go get a tree, or go into the attic or garage and get out your tree this year, remember Pressure Busting Tip #18, courtesy of J.W. Picking. Your Christmas Tree doesn't have to be a style statement. It can be the stuff of good times, great memories, and just get the job done.