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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Tree Memories

This year I'm not putting up a Christmas tree. In fact, I'm barely decorating for Christmas. Everyone who knows me is astonished. After all, they know me as the woman who has a closet dedicated just to Christmas decoration. I have an attic full of Christmas decorations, and there are two other closets that have Christmas decorations on the shelves. So have I become a scrooge? No, I'm not putting up a tree or decorating because we're going to Chicago for Christmas to be with our daughter who is about to give birth to our first grandchild. I'm going to live this Christmas on memories of the Christmas trees we've had over the years. Here are a few highlight or maybe lowlights about Christmas trees I've known. I can just smell the scent of a fresh evergreen tree.

I don't remember too many trees from my childhood, except the shiny silver one with the multicolored light that made it change colors. Somehow that same kind of tree resurrected itself and wound up in my apartment when I was a poor single school teacher. That was about the only tree I could afford. The first Christmas after my husband and I got married, we bought a Scotch pine and decorated it. It was quite lovely until it was time to take off the decorations. That tree was really prickly, and I decided that Scotch pines might be pretty but not practical.

The first Christmas in our very own home in Ohio, we decided to cut our own tree. So we went in search of a tree farm. On the way we saw a guy selling trees for $5. So we bought one. Well, as you can imagine, it looked like a $5 tree, but we decorated it and gave a toast to Charlie Brown. We've had a few other Charlie Brown trees as well.

A few years later we lived in the Atlanta area. One of our neighbors had a brother who owned a tree farm in North Carolina. So every year in November we would put in our order for a tree, and our neighbors would bring them back after their trip to see family in North Carolina during Thanksgiving. After they got back, we would go over to their house and pick up our tree without ever cutting the plastic netting. We never had to check them for shape or size. They were always nine feet of Fraser fir perfection. We were spoiled during those years, as we never had to go to a lot to pick out a tree.

When we moved to the Boston area, we had to get used to the cold again and going to a lot to find a tree. The Massachusetts balsam firs we found came from a nearby tree farm, so they were always extremely fresh. The ceilings in our house were only 7 1/2 feet, so we always had to make sure we didn't get a tree that was too tall.

We only lived in Massachusetts for a little over two years before we moved to Dallas. We spent the first five months in an apartment and moved into our brand new home a week before Christmas--not a good time to move. Two days before Christmas, after we had unpacked the Christmas decorations, I insisted that we have a Christmas tree. So we trekked to a nearby lot and found the bargain of all bargains--a $150 tree for $35. It was a gorgeous ten foot Fraser fir. We put it in the corner of our living room which had a tall vaulted ceiling. The following year, I tried to duplicate that tree without spending a fortune and came away with a candidate for a Charlie Brown award. That was the year I decided that I needed a nine foot slim line artificial tree to go in that corner of my living room and that we would put a smaller live tree in our family room. Ever since then we have been a two-tree family. I decorate the live tree with all the ornaments that I've collected through the years--the ornaments that our kids made when they were little and the ornaments I've bought from places we've traveled. And every year I add an ornament with the year on it. I have ornaments from 1976-2008. Yes, even though I didn't put up a tree this year, I did buy a 2008 ornament. We finally replaced our artificial tree two years ago after ten years and two moves--Dallas to Chicago, then Chicago to Florida.

Here are a couple of pictures--one of the live tree I put out in our screened pool area and the artificial one I usually put in our living room. This year I'll just look at the pictures and maybe light a balsam scented candle while I listen to Christmas music.

Do you have any special memories of Christmas trees?

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At 9:16 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I do have a special memory or two about Christmas trees. When I was little, we put the tree up on Christmas Eve, a family tradition. But I like mine up much earlier. I have an artificial 9ft. blue spruce that resides in my foyer and use scented oil to make it smell somewhat like a real tree. Like you, I collect ornaments from places I've traveled to. I also add the ones my daughter made in school along with gold and garnet glass balls. White lights.

Christmas lights and I have a love-hate relationship. It took me 4 hours to get 5 strands working properly, replacing fuses, blown bulbs, figuring out why half a strand was lit and the other half wasn't. Normally I have six strands. But the sixth met an early demise when frustration led me to toss it in the garbage!

At 9:20 AM, Blogger robynl said...

may you have good memories as you look and think back.
I only put up very small trees that are decorated; they go in the living room, kitchen and bedroom on a table or dresser now that dh and I are alone.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Merrillee -

We don't decorate mainly because we don't have children, but my husband and I did in the early years, too.

So funny about the silver tree with the multi-color light wheel - that's what I remember from growing up and it was a big deal to have that tree because it wa the first time we had a Christmas tree back then.

I finally decided that I was the happiest person in the neighborhood the day after Christmas since we don't have to take anything down...but I do love all the other decorations.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Oh, Dianna, you tempt me to forego the decorations.
I am never sure if my kids (now grown) appreciate the tree. I'm sure my husband would not care.

Christmas was such an EVENT in my parents' house with special decorations that had great sentimental value. I have some of those decorations now, but I think I am the only one who loves to see the old ornaments, some from my childhood, some from my husband's, some from our early marriage when someone gave us a box of very very old glass ornaments.

We've never had a real tree, like my parents always had. But we've always had cats and when you read my Dec 22 blog, "When Snoopy Knocked Down the Christmas Tree" you'll guess why.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I know what you mean about the lights. Every year I would put away lights that worked, but when I get them out the next year some of them don't work. Last year when I wrapped the two trees in front of our house with lights, after they had been up about two days, half of one of the strands stopped working. Of course, you would know that half was right in the middle of the tree. So I had to restring. What a pain!

The new tree we got has the lights already installed. That is a blessing.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I told my daughter who just got married that they should get a small tree, too. They have two cats who want to conquer the tree. We've always had cats or dogs, but fortunately they never bothered the tree much. The cats liked to lie under the tree and maybe play with a low hanging ornament or two, but they were never much trouble.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Tracy Ruckman said...

We decided not to put up a tree this year either - and I've been reluctant to tell anyone! I LOVE Christmas, and LOVE going to pick out our tree - we always get a live one.

But this year, we're spending Christmas with the kids, so we decided not to bother with the decorations and instead spend our time and money making memories with them. (I may even splurge on a Gingerbread House kit for all of us to make together - wouldn't that be fun!)

The Christmas tree I remember most I think was one given to us as a gift. I was a newly-single parent of small boys, and had just lost both my jobs. I had no idea how we were going to do anything for Christmas, when a friend arrived at my doorstep. She said she and her husband got carried away at the tree lot, and bought a tree too big for their house, but knew that our taller ceilings in our rental house would allow it so she hoped we would accept their gift.

I still cry at the memory of that tree and the thoughtfulness of my friend. Thanks for allowing me to share it.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Diane -

I've never had cats and am really looking forward to that blog, but I did have a black and tan cocker spaniel for 16 years who loved Christmas. Now that I think about it I think we stopped putting up the tree after she passed away in 1996. She wouldn't touch anything the entire month of December (when we did have packages piled under the tree) then one Christmas morning we pulled out her first box and told her to open it.

She very carefully put her paw on the box and started tearing strips of paper off until it was open so we pushed all the boxes out and she continued opening all of them the same way, never damaging a thing. It was the funniest thing so that became the Christmas tradition for about seven years until she was gone. That's probably why we never got another dog - pawprints too big for another dog to step into. "g"

Tracy - I know what you mean about not telling anyone - it's like declaring you don't like Christmas when you really love it. We make a big deal out of seeing a lot of friends for dinner and having them to our house during Christmas as our way of celebrating.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

You guys are scaring me! My dh and I have collected German glass mold ornaments since our first holiday together. We have two 8 year old cats who sniff the tree but have done little else over the years.

Enter Thing 1 and Thing 2, the feral roadside orphans we rescued. I can't change a load of laundry but both of them hop in the washer and dryer. Everything I do they think I do for their amusement and I fear for my tree!

I'm getting the tree tomorrow and my plan is to put it up and not decorate it for a while and keep a spray bottle handy. Yes, I'm mean.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

janegeorge, I have the perfect cat repellent. No mess. No fuss.

Purchase a can of compressed air, like Dust Off or something, the kind of compressed air that you use to clean off your keyboard (theoretically). My cats HATE to be squirted with air. Now all I have to do is raise the can and they scatter. If they get cocky, a short burst of air reminds them that this is the real stuff. Air.

At 1:45 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Air! So much less mean than water.
Thanks Diane. And my keyboard will benefit, too. No, those aren't Pop Tart crumbs, really.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Oh, Merrillee, I love your trees. Good job! I LOVE decorating my house and trees for Christmas. I didn't used to get so excited but now I take my time with it all and do what I can. It took me three days this year. Every year I have to throw out some strands of lights and get new ones. I love the multi colored lights and lots of them. I have lots of treasured ornaments...a few that have been glued back together after the cat knocked our tree down a few times in the past. I love hanging the stockings that my sister made years ago and I love those new FAKE flickering candles that look real. On Christmas eve we drive around looking at all the lights outside around the neighborhood. I only have one child left at home but I decorate for me so I don't think I'll ever stop decorating...even after the kids are gone. My mom is 77 and she still decorates her house! It's in the genes...:)

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Lisa Hendrix said...

One year we went tree-hunting in the mountains above Denver. It was bitterly cold, the snow was knee deep, and the good trees were few and far between. We finally found one, killed it, and dragged it back to the car, where, after tying it down, we all proceeded to empty snow out of our boots, put on fresh, dry socks, etc.

When we got home, my dad noticed his wedding ring was missing. We all assumed he'd lost it in the snow, and went out RIGHT THEN to buy him a new one, because it was that important.

Later that night, the dog needed to go outside. Instead of making me do it, Dad got up, put on his coat, and started to pull on his boots. He felt a lump, reached in -- and found his wedding ring. He put the new one away and happily wore the old one for the rest of his life.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It touched my heart, as it did yours. My family still can't believe I didn't give in and at least put up the artificial tree. But I'm still catching up from our daughter's wedding in October. My days seem gone before I start. It usually takes a whole week for me to put up all the Christmas decorations around our house. I have over a dozen nativity sets and a collection of Santas and water globes.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I can't wait to read your Dec. 22 story.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I laughed about your cats getting in the washer. My cat climbed in the dryer one day, and I couldn't find him for hours.

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I so enjoyed your memory about getting the tree and your dad losing and finding his wedding ring.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I am missing decorating my house, but I keep telling myself that I don't have time and won't be here for Christmas to enjoy it. I usually put out the outside light before Thanksgiving. (We usually go away.) Then when we get back I can turn them on as I go to work on the inside of the house. As for the burnt out lights, I usually go after Christmas and pick up a bunch of lights. Last year I got a dozen strings for 25 cents each.

At 8:39 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Jane, I also have a glass ornament collection- one blown ornament made with Mount St. Helens ash for every year since the 1980 eruption. Actually I've expanded to other types of hand-blown glass and I'm a few years ahead of schedule now. Hubby likes to tell people we have the most expensive Christmas tree in town, but an expense of $20-30 a year is not too much for Christmas decorations, surely!

There are actually three artificial trees in the attic. I prefer the lighted burgundy colored one right now. I think next year I'll go back to white with tiny pink lights, but putting lights on it is a pain.

The first year we had Jinx and her twin Jester, they went nuts for the tree. I made sure they couldn't jump on it (I have a similar experience in my past which I'll share the day after Diane's story) and I put only cheap ornaments on the lowest branches. I used ribbons to tie on all the ornaments, tightly enough that they can't be knocked off easily.

Here's another thing I did that you can try with the Ferals: Buy a couple of jingle bell type ornaments, big enough to be batted around, and toss them on the floor while you decorate the tree. Every time the Bobbsey Twins lose interest, give one a kick to get them going again. It tends to keep them distracted. We left the jingle bells on the floor till we took the tree down, and every year we have done the same. By the third year there was only mild interest in the tree.

And put a nice heavy rug beneath the tree in case they manage to dislodge something.

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Christine Glover said...

I love these stories. I have a lot of memories about trees... a list... growing up im northern Canada just beneath where the tree line ended (north of the 55th parallel), we used to go out in minus 40 degree weather to chop down a spindly tree in the woods. I really didn't like trudging through the blistering tundra winds and snow that had ice on top of it, but I did for the promise of hot chocolate afterward.

Later, when I got married, we used to get live trees. One year we had a scotch pine, put it up right after thanksgiving, and it died! we had to replace it... took down all the ornaments and redid the dang thing.

Now we do artificial trees. Turns out my annual Christmas cold is an allergy as are my husband's and my daughter's colds. The fun part for me is the fact that we give ornaments every year to each other (and have for 23 years of marriage and 14 years of being parents). There isn't a filler ball on the entire tree now!

Lights? Well after the infamous going out to buy lights twice one year episode, hubby just replaces the things every year. Not kidding!


At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Amina said...

Impressed..! I remember the excitement of Christmas as a kid.


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