Back in the day, NOBODY had a fake tree—
IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! Like I needed to tell YOU that. And I’m hoping that by the time you read this, I will have finally finished decorating my house...juuuuuust in time to take it all back down again. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I only had to buy one extra piece of furniture this year to display my newly acquired baubles.
Of course, nothing I hang in my own home could even hope to compare to the magnificent garland and colored balls that for years graced the intersection of downtown Syracuse.
Like angels trumpeting in the season, this simple strand of greenery that draped from pole to pole was, to us kids, the shot heard ‘round the world. The Christmas Revolution had begun! And with it, heralded in silver bells, paper snowflakes and trips to Kings to buy another bottle of Blue Waltz perfume for my mother because somehow she kept accidentally spilling hers in the toilet. Silly Mom.
Back then we used to buy real trees—NOBODY had a fake tree. And if they did, they were smart enough not to admit it. We’d go to the tree lot and pick out the perfect pinion pine...even though “perfect” and “pinion pine” are about as compatible as kisses and burps.
We would haul it home and drag it through the house, leaving a trail of dead needles that would eventually make their way into the soles of our feet. But that hardly mattered, because THIS WAS CHRISTMAS AND THESE PINE NEEDLES WERE ABOUT BABY JESUS! And Baby Jesus made everything better. Still does.
After that, things turned a little bit dark, as it involved hand saws, crooked tree trunks and scorching hot lightbulbs. Plus my dad. So basically a Molotov Cocktail. And every few years, my dad would actually saw through his arm.
Which makes me laugh until I cry to remember, but that is WRONG, you guys. And heartless. So I’m very sorry. (clearing throat and wiping away mirthy tears)
Anyway, when the cursing subsided and the wounds were bandaged, we children would come out from under our beds and begin the tradition of decorating the tree. Our attention spans were short, and what started out as careful placement of two or three strands of icicles at a time, soon disintegrated into pom-pom wads thrown like fast balls so we could hurry up and get to the hot chocolate.
Christmas morning always dawned too early for my parents—I never understood why. We’d beg to be let out of our rooms, and were answered with the familiar refrain; “FIVE MORE MINUTES!” Eventually, we wore them down, and after Dad checked to see if Santa had been there, he called up the O.K. and we came like flying monkeys down the stairs.
Out of thousands of presents over the years, a couple stand out;
- A miniature doll house “some assembly required” kit that unbeknownst to us was made up of male and female parts that had been frantically multiplying and replenishing while in storage, thus EXPLODED into a million tiny pieces when the box was opened. Which is how it ended up at the D.I. for someone else to “really appreciate”, and;
- A trip to Washington D.C. for my Senior year, that never “actually” transpired, because the ticket wasn’t “actually” purchased, because we didn’t “actually” have enough money. But it made for a really fun theoretical Christmas gift.
Well, just like the Bible says, “It came to pass...” And it did. Present day thoughts and experiences—they came to pass. And although we’ve all heard the cliche, “It’s the thought that counts,” I’d like to take a little poetic license and suggest that rather, “It’s the memory that counts.”
Memories of cinnamon candy and homemade toast, and rooftop icicles that became tasty treats for the walk home from school. Holiday crafts and school programs, with every child wise to the fact that Batman smells and Robin lays eggs.
Christmas Village and Temple Square and traditional dinners of potatoes and peas eaten by candlelight.
And finally, the family Bible on a bed of red velvet, with a piece of hollyberry to mark the story of Mary and Joseph and a manger filled with hay.
I think that last one is my favorite. Because as I said earlier on, Baby Jesus made everything better, bless His heart...every memory, every experience, every trial and every family was better because of Him.
And whether or not the world believes it, we still are. May these words never fade into the distance, but rather take center stage daily in our homes:
“GLORY TO GOD in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”