Thursday, December 9, 2010

Office traditions

ONE of the oldest ornaments on our office tree must have been created by someone in the 60s with a lot of time on her hands. (I am assuming an awful lot, but a close look at it will convince most everyone it was constructed by a "her" ... for sure.) The ornament may have been made for a holiday bazaar for all I know, but it has spent the last 15 years - at least - on our office's holiday tree.
This is the (at least) 18 ft. tall tree, a Noble fir. What a great name for a tree. The Santa on top is not old at all and it most likely originated in China. Other cultures must really giggle at the things they produce for Americans.
The Noble is not my favorite tree. I prefer a Grand fir, with its wonderful fragrance and bushy branches. The needles are soft, too.
I remember the trees we would have in our house when we were kids. After a long day at work planing lumber while standing on a concrete floor, searching through the woods at night with a flashlight or going out on a tree lot wasn't something our dad wanted to do.
My mother would have gladly gone along, but that would have meant loading up all the kids and she was a lot pickier than my dad and the chore would take "forever."
I seem to remember - or maybe I prefer to remember it this way - that my mother would whisper into our ears, "Make your dad look around and pick out a good looking tree." She would get a slightly desperate look in her eyes.
One year a friend offered our family a tree off his property. We most likely couldn't afford to pay for one that year. Every once in a while the union my father staunchly supported would strike and then we would have to play catch-up on our finances.
So it is 4 p.m., Dad's home from work, we eat dinner and then my sister and brother and I pile into the car with him. I can recall leaning over the front seat peering into the dark as my father drove through our rural area down a dirt and gravel road. His headlights caught a tree in their glare and he braked hard.
He was out the door in a flash and opened the trunk to take out his saw. Someone unrolled a window and we called out - uselessly - "Make sure it's a good one, Dad!"
Dad had the tree down in no time and it was either strapped to the top of the car or placed in the trunk along with the saw. I am certain the family friends were shocked to discover the next morning that the tree that stood proudly by the side of their road was sawed off and g.o.n.e.
I wonder if they ever offered us another tree?
So we take it home to my mother, who sighs as she looks at the crooked tree with the missing branch on one side. My father is not worried because one side can be turned into the corner and a nail and some twine will hold the tree straight.
"It's a Christmas tree!" he said.
Sure enough, it works out. and the bits of tinsel saved from Christmases past glorify each scrawny limb. The large colored bulbs look beautiful in the dark and ornaments gleam next to them. Bits of aluminum foil cover cardboard stars - whose star-shapes are the best we can cut out.
From somewhere, we have small figures for a nativity scene and we venture outside to gather moss and fir boughs to dramatize the tableau. Extra plastic horses or cats and dogs stand in for the camels and sheep that traditionally gather to witness the Christ child's birth. Each year, touching back on these long ago memories brings back the real Christmas for me. The scenes and scents - perfume bottles being unwrapped, cookies, fudge, and meat or fish cooking - of Christmas and the sacrifice of my parents to make our memories of this lovely season of light glow forever anew were the best presents we ever got - femminismo
p.s. The gorgeous fox stole is from the website flavorwire. Check out some of the gifts meant for our cultural icons of today.


Steve said...

I love the way that decorating the tree tunes us into our past and also makes us mindful of our futures too...

Laura said...

Christmas stories, yours is well told. that Santa at the end looks so familiar. And I love the fox stole! My grandmother used to let me play with her (what I called) foxes biting each other.

gooddiet said...

Jeanne--this brought back such vivid memories of Christmas at home. Thanks for this post!