O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree

When I was a kid, my parents bought a fake Christmas tree. It was much taller than I was, flocked with fake snow, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever. Decorated with lights and ornaments, it was simply magical. I used to creep into the living room after everyone else had gone to bed, turn on the tree’s lights, and stare in happy wonder. When it came down after Christmas, I would be depressed. But I always knew that it was in storage in the attic, and would return the next year. That tree has lasted for my entire lifetime.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, I grew into a Grinch. The utter commercialism of Christmas, and the obligation of buying gifts for people whether I wanted to or not, jaded me to such an extent that when I moved out on my own, I refused to have a Christmas tree. For a couple of years I strung lights on a potted palm, but soon let that drop as well.

Then I moved to Portugal, into a house with (at the time) a six-year-old child. Suddenly a tree was required. Fortunately, my wife already had one. Like the one I grew up with, it’s fake. But that’s where the similarities end. It’s smaller, and far more cheaply made — my parents’ tree actually looks real, while this one hardly even tries. Every time we put it together, a zillion needles fall off. (We joke that in another five years there won’t be any tree left to put up.) The branches are squished and some have to be tugged into place by strategically strung lights. It’s kind of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, if you’re familiar with that reference.

When I arrived in Portugal, I brought with me a small box of ornaments that I’d had since childhood. We put them on this tree every year, and my stepson adores this part. He’d never seen ornaments quite like those before, and to him they are exotic and special.

This year my wife and I assembled the poor, squished, shedding tree, strung the lights, and then called our kid in to help hang the ornaments. He did so with palpable delight, and was then given the traditional task of putting the star on top. Last year I had to lift him so that he could reach it. This year he dragged over a footstool and stood on top of it.

When it was all done, he said, “This is the best tree in the world!”

And, just like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes bigger. I think that if I turn off the room lights, and sit in the dark to stare at the tree, I just might remember that old magic. It didn’t go away. It just passed into the next generation.

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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9 Responses to O Christmas Tree

  1. Jbrandao says:

    That’s simply adorable πŸ™‚

  2. Liam Donnelly says:

    It’s a great story. I just had up my first tree in ages. At least 15 years. It made Christmas.
    What exactly is your cat thinking, sitting in that box? I know it’s thinking SOMETHING.
    Great memories and story, Fletcher. Thanks for sharing.
    Happy New Year, soon, to all.

  3. Liam Donnelly says:

    We had a cat that, no lie, lived 21 years. She loved boxes. I have no doubt she was claiming that as her kingdom.
    I am considering getting a cat. I just have to figure out where to put a litter box. Happy New Year to you and the Family.

  4. xenatuba says:

    OK, so there is something with cats and Christmas…Our first tree had NO ornaments below 3 feet (with two juvenile cats in residence…need I say more?) We have had cats in and under the tree most every year, although not the past few as we’ve been ca less, but never tree less.

    My sister still uses the star my parents bought the first Christmas they were married (1949) on her tree, and I believe still uses ornaments we had as children.

    I, on the other hand, watched the Grinch for the first time this year, and only now can appreciate the “three sizes bigger” statement.

  5. Lilaine says:

    Wonderful Christmas story, thanks for sharing it.
    Hope you have many more Christmas trees to decorate for the delight of your kid. πŸ™‚
    My nephews enjoyed it up until their terrible teens, and now they don’t even notice when the tree(same as yours, there must be a forest of them somewhere in Europe..) isn’t put up… I guess(or dare hope) the next generation will enjoy it(what’s left of it, anyway :p).
    And be reassured, you’re not the only one to be a Grinch at Christmas time. πŸ˜‰

  6. M. says:

    What a great story, thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

    Funny, for years there was at my home a fake Christmas tree very similar to your Portuguese one, the same star on top included (well, only silver) πŸ˜€
    To have a fake tree was considered a little weird in a country where Christmas trees were a part of every forest. But my family had this idea of ‘nature preservation’ and declared that by having a fake Christmas tree we saved life of a real one. Times change. Now local farmers breed Christmas trees for sale. And my family has developed this ‘support local business’ policy, so we buy a real tree every year. At least the smell is amazing, but I miss my old fake tree.

  7. Michelle Wainwright says:

    I’m a ‘santaphobe’ I hate all the commercial clap trap and being expected to be jolly throughout December..don’t send cards anymore…BUT I adore a tree, and splash out ill afforded funds on a non needle dropping real tree, and adore decorating it with momentoes from nearly 40 yrs of marriage and still have decs that the kids made (now 35 and 37)! I have taken the decorations down now..except the tree which stays till 12th night, shining brightly and lighting our life.. Happy New Year x

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