SHARON RANDALL COLUMN FOR TUES., NOV. 29, 2011

What is it about Christmas that makes kids try to be “good” and old people act like kids?
For weeks, my husband has been nagging, “Can we please put the tree up now?”
The man loves Christmas.
I love it, too. But I can usually wait for it until Christmastime.
He started itching to put the tree up before Halloween. OK, maybe it was November, but it felt like October. The holidays seem to come earlier every year.
I remember as a child thinking Christmas could never come soon enough. I’d start begging my mother to put our tree up in July. I had to start early to make sure she didn’t forget.
Christmas trees were not her favorite thing. I don’t know what her favorite thing was, but it was definitely not a tree.
She didn’t like having to go out and get one, so she left that to my stepfather. She didn’t like decorating it, so she left that to me. And she really didn’t like taking it down after Christmas and cleaning up the mess. But we could never do it to suit her, so she did that herself.
Finally, when I was 10 or so, she came up with a solution: A fake aluminum tree that folded up for storage, and left no sticky needles on the floor.
I hated it. It looked like a TV antenna covered with toilet brushes. Have you ever tried to decorate a TV antenna covered with toilet brushes? Trust me, you don’t even want to try.
A few days after Christmas, I got on a bus to go see my dad and his parents on their farm. When I told my grandmother about the fake tree, she said, “Your mama works too hard.”
The next morning, she shook me awake and said, “Come see your Christmas tree.”
Outside the kitchen window stood a giant fir covered in fresh snow. And there on its highest branch sat the perfect crowning ornament _ a Cardinal.
In the stillness and beauty and surety of that moment, with my grandmother’s breath warm on my neck, I forgot the fake tree and my mother’s troubles and the doll that I had wanted, but would never get. And suddenly it was Christmas.
So it always is. If Santa only comes while we’re sleeping, Christmas only comes when we’re wide-eyed awake to the gifts that are ours every day.
My mother finally got rid of the fake tree, thanks to a change in her medications and the fact that we had to keep adjusting the toilet brushes to avoid interference in TV reception.
I vowed never to have a fake Christmas tree. I’m learning to be more careful of what I vow.
After my husband and I moved to the desert outside Las Vegas, we kept buying fresh Christmas trees that wouldn’t last a week
before dropping their needles.
Finally, we gave up and bought a fake tree. It doesn’t look, smell or feel like a real tree. It doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. Everybody knows it’s fake.
But it’s green, not aluminum; covered in branches, not toilet brushes; and it doesn’t interfere with our TV reception.
I’m not crazy about it, but I don’t hate it. Especially when I see how happy it makes my husband to drag it from the garage to the living room.
It’s standing there now, all crooked and lopsided, beat up from storage, looking as if it had to fight all the other fake trees in the world for the privilege of spending Christmas with us.
Tomorrow, we’ll straighten it out, patch it up, cover it with lights and an angel, a few treasured ornaments and the snowflakes my grandmother crocheted for me.
It will still be a fake tree. But it will come alive with the spirit of a real Christmas, and with the little-boy laughter of a grown man who reminds me that Christmas is not just for kids.

Comments

  1. Vicki in Monterey says:

    Happy Holidays to you & Mark, dear Sharon. We had a kitty that always nested in the tree’s branches … and never broke an ornament; BRILLIANT feline that she was =]

    I hope you get to see the kids and GRANDkids this holiday season.

    Cheers, dearheart

    Vicki

  2. Davey Myers says:

    “Trust me, you don’t even want to try”. Sharon, I could hear your voice coming right through my computer. Thanks for taking me back to those childhood memories and wonderful days filled anticipation and God’s gift of Grandmas! Love, Davey

  3. Debbie Fortune says:

    Merry Christmas from the Monterey Peninsula, Sharon! You sure know how to tell a story…

  4. phyl spoon says:

    Sharon,

    I had to chuckle when you mentioned the beautiful cardinal on the snow covered tree in your grandma’s front yard.

    When we lived in Illinois I insisted on a real tree and brought one home that I, too quickly, had picked out because it was tooo damn cold to wander around the lot. Our living room had lipstick red carpeting. What could be better for Christmas, right? I decided to accent the color by covering the tree with red cardinal birds. It looked great for about 10 days when we started hearing needles falling off the branches. Then, we began to see the birds twirling on their bare branches. We had some fun evenings counting the number of twirling birds.

    Haven’t connected with marie of late, but keep trying. Wishing you and Mark a veru Merry Christmas.
    Phyl and Bo

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Twirling red birds, what a great Christmas memory! Nice to hear from you, Phyl. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  5. Cheryl Fick says:

    You always seem to be able to put into words my sentiments sometimes. It’s just weird but in a good way. I too was subject to the aluminum tree for maybe 1 or 2 years. My mom also had one of those rotating color wheels to shine on the tree to make it change colors. The wheel had 4 colors. I never really liked it but my mom was all a buzz about it . . for a while.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Oh, some of my friends’ families had those color wheels, I’d forgotten all about them! I’m glad to know you think I sometimes give voice to your feelings, Cheryl. I suspect we’re a lot alike, you and I! Best to you and yours!

  6. What a touching story…especially the way your grandmother spoke to you.

    We got married in 1967 & our first tree was one of those horrible aluminum things! But we were so excited about it, we really did put it up on Halloween! Years later we got rid of it, only for me to want the thing back, and bought a replacement for an outrageous price at an antique store! A couple of years ago I put it up for the grandkids amusement. When our son saw it he called it “tinsel on a stick”! It certainly doesn’t hold the charm that it did those years ago.

    I’m thinking it will stay in its musty smelling box this year.

    Thanks for stirring up the memories!

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Thanks, Sheila, hang onto that aluminum tree, clearly it holds great memories! Best to you and your family.

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