Saturday, December 25, 2010
Ghosts of Christmas Past I was blessed as a kid growing up with a big and diverse extended family. I loved all my aunts and uncles and many cousins were great friends and playmates. I remember that one uncle, one of my mother's brothers, always seemed to have the latest gadget or the newest must have thing. When digital cameras were still a distant dream, my uncle had the 1960's version of instant photography gratification - the Polaroid Land Camera. Make a picture, wait 60 seconds and like magic you had a small, square color picture. This uncle had an American Motors Rambler, a mostly forgettable automobile that nonetheless was a bit of a novelty when it was introduced. And, apropos to Christmas, uncle had the first aluminum Christmas tree I ever remember seeing. The shimmery, silver tree came in a big box. You had to assemble it limb-by-limb and once fitted together you could switch on a rotating light with three colored gels that, when positioned just right, constantly changed the tree color from green to red to gold. My mother loved her brother, but was appalled by that tree. Only one type of tree ever graced my mother's living room - a real, "live" tree, dripping with tinsel, many, many uniformly sized colored ornaments and tiny little colored lights. Mom was fastidious about most everything. She ironed the dish towels, never, ever left a bed unmade and never went to sleep with a dirty dish in the kitchen sink. Christmas trees in her world were natural, green and, if not just perfect in size and shape, subject to certain engineering modifications. I can still see her cutting off an unneeded lower branch of a big tree and grafting it into a naked spot higher up that just didn't quite conform to her notion of what a proper tree looked like. She would use black sewing thread to hold the grafted branch in place. Not a chance that this woman would embrace the artificial tree movement. It's funny the things you remember from long ago. I certainly remember that cutting edge aluminum tree, but also can see mom standing on tip toes hanging long strands of tinsel, insisting that each piece be absolutely straight. I once offered to help, but was politely and firmly told there was only one way to decorate a Christmas tree and I was welcome to help, if I did it her way. I watched. While I did not inherit mom's fascination with Christmas tinsel, I did get her natural tree dominate gene. And like a visit from Marley's ghost, all these years later, I can see clearly the living room, mom's tree, my Christmas stocking and my brother's and the little Christmas figures she would haul out every year. Memories - those ghosts from years past - are the real joys of Christmas now. No coal for me and no fake tree. Just a lifetime of memories and mother decorating her tree. Merry Christmas and happy memories.