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Kelsea and I decorated our little Christmas tree with Mr. GF last night.  I have always liked live Christmas trees.  A fake one just won’t do.  It is lifeless, just like canned food.

And we decorated the tree at Pat’s house also, which felt better than last year, but still odd, sad.  To be expected in a divorce, I am sure.  Pat was civil, if distant.  There was no champagne and no laughter, as in most years, but also no irritation.  The outcome was nice though – it’s a pretty little tree.

From my bed, I can see my own tree, lit up in the corner of the living room.  I’ve always liked sleeping with a lit Christmas tree (regardless of the fire hazard.)  In our early years together, Pat and I had a little tabletop tree that we put up on an old typewriter stand in the bedroom.  We always had a tendency to get the “Charlie Brown” trees, sometimes waiting until a tree lot was practically bare before succumbing.

We cut our own one year up in the forest above Fort Collins; fortunately, the mix of champagne and hack saws was not a disaster.  On our first Christmas in the house, we got the tree from a lot that is now the town hall, and dragged it home by hand in the gently falling snow. 

The year that we had trouble and separated for a while, before Kelsea, we reconciled right before Christmas.  We went down to Taos, where we had spent part of our honeymoon, and solidified that we were going to make it work.  We got back on Christmas Eve.  It was the first year we hadn’t had a tree – we usually spent much of Christmas with Pat’s brother and his wife and daughters (wherever the children are is where the Christmas is.)  But we both felt strange about not having a tree so we each made a tree for the other.  I used a pink flamingo, decorated it with lights and a santa hat and put presents beneath it.  He took ribbons and twirled them into a tree shape from the ceiling to the floor and put presents beneath that.  It was a nice alternative-tree Christmas.

My childhood Christmas tree pursuits are marvelous memories.  We would always get our tree at the tree lot that was set up at the church on the corner near East Campus – was it Asbury?  I loved it when they would start to set up the lot because it meant Christmas was coming.  When we finally went to pick out our tree, it would take us at least an hour.  This was not a decision to be rushed.  We’d look at every tree, each having our favorites, until we finally came to a consensus.  I usually went more by my emotions – how much a tree felt right to me – than by anything else.  Then we’d tie it into the trunk of the car for the ride home – only a few blocks, but I was always so concerned that the tree would fall out.  Daddy would put it into a bucket of water in the garage until it was time for it to go up in the house.

Some years, that tree search was accompanied by weather so cold I can remember not being able to feel my fingers and toes.  Ever so rarely, there was snow.  Sometimes, it was rain and mud.  And other years, it was Indian-summer warm.  But regardless of the weather, I remember the scent.  The smell of those pine trees in their long rows under the colored lights.  I would bury my nose in their branches and memorize the scent.  Today, that scent brings me back to happy times when I was little and Christmas seemed like it would never come, but came and went all too quickly.

I don’t know what happened to the family ornaments after my Mother died.  Perhaps E-Bro has some.  Perhaps I have some in one of the boxes that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to unpack since her death.  Perhaps they have gone to new homes to become part of other people’s memories.

I expect more Christmas reminiscences will arise over the next few days.  They are bittersweet this year, but I will hope for a leaning towards the sweet as the years go by. 

December 2009


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