I so loved reading the stories of how you named your blogs. Thank you for telling them, I learned some fun and important things about you. Also, some of you found each other across the planet through this worm hole. I love our community. Every connection shows that we are One human organ.
It snowed tonight, and after a warm November, now we move into a season of winter, which carries Christmas in a big festive mixed bag. In the bag are hugs, candlelight and warm fires. Squeezed in among those are intolerable front yard inflatable Santas and loop after loop of Christmas·carol·muzak. And because the bag is lined with a big fat assumption of festivity, it is also loaded with sorrow and pain - remembered or current. We ache in contrast to the glitter, and that twists the knife. Maybe a white feather boa snakily imitating snow on top of the piano brings a smile and eases the ache. But there is no automatic improvement to our lives just because we are surrounded by Christmas gloss and powder. It reminds me of the Nativity, a story of hope for deliverance born inside political unrest, fear, temporary homelessness and birthing pains.
Nothing as heavy as all that here today, but in a bit of sad irony we are able to put up a real, fresh Christmas tree this year.
For me it is a sweet moment in commerce when Home Depot and the farmer down the road set up a variety of evergreen trees on their corners for us Christmas lovers to paw over, tip up, spin, examine and eliminate until we find the One that sings carols in our ears. "Those sticking-up boughs will ease down when they get in our warm family room" we say. Fresh trees are not boxed or plasticked; they are irregular, pokey, sappy and messy. But we pile into our cars and trucks in the coldest weather and flock to those tree lots to pick the One - and welcome it with love into our home. Oh that reminds me of a couple we knew in Pasadena who alternated between flocked and unflocked trees each year. She liked flocked, he liked unflocked. Or was it the other way around? Flocked means the boughs are sprayed with fake snow. And I also remember how strange it was to live in a warm climate at Christmas, where poinsettias were outdoor landscaping plants.
IMHO the best tree for decorating with ornaments is a Frasier Fir. The needles are short and firm, letting ornaments actually hang between branches, and not just lie on top of the needles, yuck. (oh dear, I am a tree snob.) But the main reason they are perfect is that the branches are random and skew-jee. You can even nestle ornaments deep inside, on a bough right next to the trunk, so there are surprises. If a Christmas tree looks like a dense triangle with no dark recesses of mystery between boughs, it depresses me.
Not that I don't have a supreme holiday memory of spending hours folding each page of a Reader's Digest so that the upper corner folded down into a long ruler-straight angle, then fanned out in rotundity. Spray with canned snow (in this photo I found* it's sprayed gold, nice) - et voila! a 3-D triangular flocked Christmas tree. She would have liked it. Or was it he? I should mention that I nearly missed Christmas at age 7 when I leapt up to retrieve the canned snow and ran headlong into the French door standing open; stars and stripes later I gaped at my forehead's goose egg from a handheld mirror in my parents' bed. Could thith be from whenth my dithtathte for triangular Chrithmath treeth cometh?**
So yes, except for magazeeny trees, there must be perfectly imperfect gaps and caves to go spelunking in, with an overall symmetry when you blur your eyes.
And there has to be the smell of evergreen. Slightly astringent, and warmly cool. A pleasant tingle in the eyes and nose. Firs have it.
Always, with our children, we magnified the event of picking out the tree together. It was important for them to believe they were part of the decision, even though now looking back I see that Don and I, ok . . . I . . . had last say.
But Christmas before last when Peter and Don carried in the bare Frasier from the truck, within minutes of my stringing white lights, Peter was catapulted way beyond a cool tingle into a sneezing fit, and within an hour we realized his allergies had developed a hatred for our tree! The guilty tree was quarantined out on the deck, where it ended up looking pretty great with white lights sparkling in snow in the coming weeks.
So last year for dear Peter's sake we got an artificial tree with as many random gappy branches as we could find (I think it's a Martha Stewart one) and decorated it for the family room. When you turned out all the lights except the tree, you couldn't tell it was artificial. Except for the lack of fragrance, and well also being too symmetrical.
This year, and here's the sad irony, neither Lesley & Brian nor Peter will be home for Christmas, so we can get a fresh tree again. Even Don's parents are traveling to Colorado, so we won't see them either. I am not a woman addicted to holidays or believe that families must be present on them. We love each other every day, absent or together, birthday or no birthday, anniversary or not, Valentine's Day or the other 364. But when my nostrils fill with evergreen, and a sharp needle pokes into my fingernail's cuticle when I hang Peter and Lesley's paper stars they made one Christmas twenty years ago when we lived far away in İstanbul, I will feel the sting - while I inhale, ahhhh.
*I found the image of the Reader's Digest tree, along with instructions, here.
** Translation for non-native English speakers. These lispy wordplays can be a royal pain to you: Could this be from whence my distaste for triangular Christmas trees cometh?