By Ginger Truitt
On Sunday afternoon, I sent our son into the attic to haul down the Christmas tree. I’d like to say we spent the day at the tree farm, trudging across the acres, waiting expectantly for the perfect tree to wave his branches and say, “Here I am! Choose me!” But after one particularly difficult asthma year, the doctor determined that son is allergic to a number of trees, including the ones most commonly used for Christmas.
Once I adjusted to the idea of not having a live tree, I began to see the benefits. As a busy mom, I’m all about building a sense of tradition without actually doing the work that most traditions require. I used to spend hours weaving lights through each branch of my artificial tree because that’s what grandpa always did with his Canadian Spruce. The effect was beautiful, but the work was tedious.
Our first two years of marriage, we were too poor for a tree. So, we bought a single, beautiful ornament that we cherish to this day. Our third Christmas, we managed to get a small, lop-sided, discount tree from a stand by the side of the road. I asked hubby to start putting on the lights while I changed the baby’s diaper. Before I had fastened the tape, he called, “The lights are on!”
What? This couldn’t be. Properly putting lights on a tree takes hours. Sometimes even days. I walked into the living room and was astonished to see a single strand running from top to bottom in a spiral fashion. I could feel the earth’s tremor as grandpa rolled over in his grave.
For years, I took it upon myself to weave the lights. The kids knew the day we bought the tree was not necessarily the day they would decorate it. Mom had a love affair with lighting, and sometimes it lasted late into the night.
With the advent of pre-lit trees, I lost a little more integrity. At first, I resisted. But hubby is a persistent fellow, and he finally convinced me we should at least try one. I conceded, as long as we could find one that had a minimum of 3000 lights on it. That didn’t happen, so the first year I added additional lights. Eventually, I gave up and decided to be content with a measly 1500 lights. I add tons of tinsel so that the reflection occasionally blinds by-passers.
These days I enjoy the tradition of reminiscing with the kids over each ornament, and telling them stories from my Christmases past. My dad was in the ministry, so our family didn’t have much. But my mom had this way of making everything beautiful and exciting. One year, she created kits so we could make our own felt puppets. It was the greatest present ever. Another year, she found an umbrella in the discount bin. It was blue and had the word “Rain” across the top. I thought it was awesome. Pictures from that Christmas show me in P.J.s, proudly holding the umbrella over my head. I was the only kid in fourth grade who looked forward to rainy days.
One of my favorite memories is the night mom bartered for a Christmas tree. She was a Mary Kay consultant, so she put several samples into a pretty little basket. It was nearly Christmas, and she figured the tree business was slowing down. The plan was to go late in the evening, find a tree lot being run by a woman, and convince her that she needed Mary Kay.
I remember my dainty mother rubbing lotion onto the calloused hands of a woman wearing a thermal and flannel combo. “Your hands deserve to be pampered after weeks of working with pine trees.”
The sales pitch worked. I still remember the look of amazement on dad’s face when we pulled into the driveway with a huge tree strapped to the top of the station wagon. And we didn’t spend a dime.
I don’t worry anymore about artificial vs. real. I finally realized that the memories my kids carry into the future will have very little to do with what we had, and a lot more to do with the spirit in which it was presented.
Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.