The Trimming of the Tree
by Niki Turner
As there are presently an even dozen Inkies, we've decided (thanks Miss Anita!) to dedicate one December day per Inky to a Christmas post about our childhood Christmas memories or traditions.
I took the plunge into the icky, scary crawl space (so named because crawly things live there) to haul out a Rubbermaid container of photos in search of pictorial Christmas memories. I only found a few ... apparently, Christmas pictures weren't a priority at my house. Considering my mother's (and my) aversion to being photographed, that's not very surprising.
I did find Christmas pictures of my uncle, my aunt, my grandparents, and various family friends... (I also rediscovered one of my grandfather's pre-WWII scrapbooks, which is a treasure all on its own, complete with newspaper clippings from the late 1930s and pictures of the ships on which he served in the Navy.)
|me, circa 1978-1979|
I did stumble across this horribly awkward picture of myself in front of our tree, circa 1978 or 1979. Yes, my dress was too small and my knee socks are pathetically uneven. But look past me to the tree... No, that's not a Charlie Brown tree. It's an authentic Colorado pine of unknown species. All our trees looked like that.
My folks were big fans of trudging, via cross-country skis, into the depths of the Colorado wilderness to locate the "perfect" Christmas tree. I hated those excursions because they always involved being terribly cold. We would traipse from tree to tree, weighing each evergreen's pros and cons with the kind of deliberation a jury gives to sentencing a murder suspect.
No matter how long we debated or how carefully we searched, the "perfect" tree always required cosmetic surgery when we got it home... Cut the bottom off so the tree wasn't bent sideways at the ceiling, trim the bottom branches so it will fit in the stand, turn it so the inevitable flat side faced the corner. Then my dad would start in on the lights.
Before the days of mini-lights and pre-lit trees, putting the lights on the tree was a painstaking process. When you're only putting 25-50 C9 lights on the tree, it's crucial that every light be in the right place or the tree will have dark, empty holes.
Once dad was done, it was time to hang the ornaments, the same ones year after year, without variation. Leaving some in the box was a kind of sacrilege, I perceived. By the time I finished elementary school, the collection of handmade craft ornaments I'd added to the mix turned our tree into a conglomeration of construction paper, shedding glitter, glue and sequins. The topper came last. When I was 3 or 4, my mom and I made an angel from construction paper, and mom let me draw her face. My Christmas angel was okay, except for the unibrow, a la Bert from Sesame Street. Of course, I never realized my Christmas angel had a unibrow until I was a teenager. How she (and the rest of those handmade ornaments) survived in their cardboard boxes for so long is a mystery.
I must have kept hold of that purple marker we used for the tree topper without my mother's knowledge, because all my pictures from that time period have been "Nikishopped" with purple marker. I especially liked drawing around the eyes. (See that boat? That's a Weeble boat... not the silly looking Weebles they sell these days, but the original egg-shaped creatures.)
|The 2008 "mish-mash" tree|
For years I believed everyone decorated their Christmas tree just like we did. Only after I met my husband did I realize tree-trimming is a form of artistic expression for some people. My MIL's trees had new themes and color schemes every year. I was impressed. Her trees seemed to mirror her experiences, her heart, from the preceding year.
The year before my husband and I met the Lord, our tree was decorated with a selection of clearance ornaments from K-Mart... it was the tree of misfit toys. All the ornaments were broken or deformed in some way. Looking back on it, that was an accurate representation of where we were at the time.
|2010, the "bird" tree|
Last year my tree was filled with birds. Why? Because I was clinging to Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
Right now, I'm leaning toward a "crown" theme, because no matter what, Jesus Christ IS the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and that's all I need to remember this season!
Mother of four and grandmother of one, Niki Turner is an only child, wife of a former pastor, and writer of fiction, blog posts, Facebook status updates, a tweet here and there, and lots of long grocery lists. She also writes, copyedits, and proofreads for the local newspaper, www.theheraldtimes.com. Her first completed manuscript was a finalist in the 2009 Touched by Love contest. If you like this post, please "follow" me at my personal blog, In Truer Ink.