Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Up And It's Good

I am not pretentious about many things but, when it comes to Christmas trees, I am a complete snobola. My treelitism goes back only one generation to my parents who were equally fussy about O Tannenbaum.

In my childhood home, a fake tree would have been as welcome as a bottle of Mad Dog 2020 in a sommelier's personal wine cellar. And just like a lover of fine wine will spend money he doesn't have on a bottle of exquisite cabernet, my lower-middle class dad always bought the biggest, fattest, finest tree available without even glancing at the price tag.

Each year my mother would ask, "Do you think it's too big?" Then each year we would somehow stuff an eight foot tree into a tiny row home with seven foot ceilings. Once we had to remove panels from our dropped ceiling to accommodate the piney Goliath. During another Christmas season we had to actually walk on our couch because there was no room available to navigate out to the kitchen.

Holly jolly, I loved our trees! The late author Spalding Gray used to talk about "perfect moments," those snippets in time where everything seemed just right. Sitting on the couch with my mom, listening to Bing Crosby with our only light coming from the 1,200 tiny bulbs my dad strung on the tree with much hissing and cursing, was one of those occasions. Of course, a few years ago Mr. Gray committed suicide by jumping off a boat so perhaps he had no idea what he was talking about.

The tree was always put up on Christmas Eve. My dad did the lights but Santa did the decorating while we slept. Three new ornaments were purchased every year-- one for each kid-- and we would hang them ourselves before going to bed. My mother had a strict "no balls" policy. We were ornament people. Balls were for people with fake trees from Sears.

As an adult, I've still maintained some of the "too big, real and no ball" traditions, but there is no way I can ever wait until December 24 to break out the tree stand. This year, in fact, the tree was decorated before November was even complete.

Over the years, my husband and I have started our own tradition by collecting ornaments from the different states where we've performed. Since we've worked in all 50 states, we have no problem covering our evergreen friend. We call it our Travel Tree and it's a nice way to reminisce about the places we've been.

But I wish Santa would still do the decorating like he did when I was little. That part-- as my grandmother would say-- is a pain in the kiester.

Above is my cotton angel from Alabama. Below is my turtle from South Carolina.

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