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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Yes, Linus, They Do Still Make Wooden Christmas Trees, And One Year...

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.  

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6 comments:

  1. I love your tree story. It's hilarious and adorable at the same time.

    I have a couple of Christmas Tree stories of my own...perhaps I'll pull them out.

    I remember when I was a kid, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special from away up north in Alaska, and wondering if people in the lower 48 really had huge pink aluminum trees. HA!

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  2. I like a tree with some character - where you can tell the personality of the family by looking at it. I love to go to other people's houses & check out all their ornaments. It's like being allowed to look in their medicine cabinet or junk drawer. Fascinating! (Yes, I'm a snoop).

    And I always wanted to see one of those aluminum Christmas trees :)

    The other year I actually bought a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree for Mike to put in his office. I'll have to remind him to put it up this year.

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  3. Bug--"It's not such a bad little tree." Theme trees are pretty to look at, but you're right. They don't show a family's personality. They can be stunning and stylish, but I don't see Family when I look at one. I see Pier 1. I like scoping out other people's ornaments, and I enjoy watching others discover all of my cows, and the pickle ornament and the other ones on my tree. Each one has a story. And yes, I have a wineglass ornament on my tree, too.

    j.@jj.--I'd love to hear some Alaska Christmas stories, and I'll bet I'm not the only one.

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  4. I like just about any kind of Christmas tree except the pre-fab ones with that bend-y sort of ribbon with all ornaments the same 2-3 colours (you know the ones: http://tinyurl.com/q4gxaok )

    I remember the last one my dad put up before he died, when my mother was going through a very rough patch. It was a tiny, Charlie Brown tree from Walgreen's with a few old bits and bobs on it so that my nieces would not think they were not celebrating Christmas. In memory of that, I used to put up my own little Charlie Brown tree with paper rings and popcorn strings. The homey touch and ornaments carefully chosen over the years--- that's what makes the tree.

    Sorry for being out of the loop for so long. Been putting out a lot of fires for the last 3 weeks, and figured I had missed 2-3 posts. But not 16 posts! So I have some catching up to do...

    Enjoy your trip!

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  5. Cedar trees that we find and cut ourselves are our very favorites. They can hold a gazillion ornaments and are usually full without much concern for holes. Exceptions are cedar trees that have "split" and don't have one main trunk. One must avoid those at all costs, lest your tree split in half before or after you get it in the stand.

    Some of the family prefers pine trees and others prefer firs. We got a fir (couldn't tell you exactly which kind) at a farm on the way back from a weekend trip to PA once. It was lightly snowing at the time and we just spotted the Christmas tree farm and pulled in on the spur of the moment. So it was really one of those storybook moments and it was very, very nice for the type of tree it was. However, as we carried it on our SUV's roof for over 200 miles, we couldn't go for our usual 9 1/2 foot tree. And Son absolutely hated it because it was not our typical tree, didn't smell the same, and was too short.

    As far as garland and tinsel, there was a period of time growing up where my family did both. Yes, pretty garish in retrospect. Once hubby and I got together, we eventually had neither as he'd grown up without either and I learned to like the simpler look and the lack of tinsel everywhere.

    Shirley

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  6. Shirley--I like the "finished" look of tinsel/icicles. I'm used to it, having grown up with it. And I like multicolor lights. Some of the cedars are gorgeous trees! They aren't available here for cut trees.

    Ortizzle--I know, the theme trees. The fashion trees. Pretty, but to me, soulless. Someday, I want to string cranberries and popcorn, and then put it out for the birds when we're done with our tree. It sounds so nice.

    Plenty of time to catch up. I'm always happy to see you here, in any capacity.

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