Friday, December 2, 2011

A Christmas Memory - Part II

I wrote this little Christmas story as a gift for my kids (or was it really for me?).  That same year my wife gave them family recipes photocopied from their grandmothers' own cards and habdwritten in her own.  I'm not sure if they appreciated it, but maybe someday they will feel called to write their own.  For those looking for more on Lowell's irish past, do not be concerned.  Plans are already in the making for another series of the most recent research.  So I offer to you part 2 of 4.  May you take the time to create your own memories.


If my memory serves me correctly at some point my mother was barred from the quest of getting the tree.  Since we had no car, as did most in that neighborhood, it was a traipse to the several neighborhood dealers.  Somehow we always picked the weekend when snow and the temperature had fallen to the point of frostbite.  My mother demanded the perfect tree.  Not too short, not too tall.  Not too narrow, not too full.  A skimpy tree meant there weren’t enough branches to hang the ornaments.  A tree too full wouldn’t allow the ornaments to hang just right.  After my mother commanding my father to try this tree and that, and then back to this tree and finally deciding on that one, only to find someone had bought it, there was an unspoken decision my father would play hunter-gatherer and get the tree himself.  And so, wearing double layers of socks, a pair of woolen leggings, the mandatory hat with earflaps pulled down and strapped under the chin, accompanied by the god-awful black rubber boots with the gazillion impossible buckles, we would leave the safety of the primeval cave and enter the world of the Christmas Tree Man. 
Now finding a tree was not a matter of shape or form to my father, but being the son of a Scotsman, was all about the price.  I truly believe in the whole time we lived in the Acre we never paid more than $3 for a tree and more likely $2.  Ahh, it was a dance that was performed between my father and Tree Man.  Banging the tree stump on the ground to proclaim the needles falling off.  The shaking of the head at how poor a selection Tree Man had.  The proverbial question of, “Is this all you have?”  Many times this was enough for Tree Man to give in and acquiesce to the Great White Tree Hunter.  But every now and then Tree Man held his ground.  That’s when my dad would pull out the big guns.  I think subconsciously my dad hoped he could pull off this coup-du-gras.  It had to be timed perfectly.  The hand gestures, facial expressions.  When Tree Man did not bite my Dad’s bait of “I’ll give you 2 bucks for this one,” my father would shake his head and say “Come on David, let’s go.”  I would lower my head and follow a few steps behind.  Inevitably just as we were leaving his lot, Tree Man would call out, “Wait!”  Though Tree Man couldn’t see it my father’s face would beam.  The hunt.  Now the kill.  With my Dad taking the lead, we would carry our catch down Broadway Street
hill.  I taking two steps to his every one.  The crunch of the snow beneath our boots helped keep the rhythm to our steps.  As the door opened to our house Dad would again tell the story of how once again Tree Man dared to take him on, and the victory of getting a two dollar and fifty cent tree.  To complete the annual expedition my mother would proclaim once again that she had no idea where was she going to hang the ornaments on such a skimpy tree. 

 Once the tree was brought home it had to be put into its stand, which consisted of a green metal bowl in which water would be poured to keep the tree moist.  Three red metal legs had to be attached to keep the stand steady.  A degree in engineering was needed to assemble the device.  Only the most delicate of maneuvers would hold the legs together in such a state to put the stump in the tree without it falling apart.  Placing of the tree was also of major concern.  “Move it to the right.  More.  More.  Too much.  Left.  I said left.  Put it back where it was.”  The Commanding Officer, my mother, would bark out the orders never content believing that turning it just the right way would make the difference.  There was an unwritten rule in the house that the tree had to “stand” for 24 hours.  It was the belief a lot like “no swimming for one full hour after eating before going in the water.”  If you decorated the tree before that time the needles would fall, and Christmas would be ruined forever and all time. 

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