Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Not Such a Bad Little Tree...

I don’t know if this is normal for other people who write blogs but often I find myself starting out with a clear idea in my head and somehow a whole other creature turns up by the end. Take this blog as an example. For the past three times, I have been trying to write about Christmas traditions. Every time something new pops in and suddenly, I find myself down a different road. Not today. I don’t care if it’s the day after Christmas; we’re doing this, people!
            To me, I think that’s another reason in making Christmas so relatable to everyone. We all have a process and everyone can appreciate the similarities and differences. Everyone loves to share and I love hearing about them. Kim and I even discovered a show on the all Christmas radio station with this horribly cheesy DJ called Delilah. She plays soft rock Xmas music and in breaks, takes callers with the ways they spend the holidays. The calls are usually pretty good but then Delilah has to open her mouth and say something very morning talk-showish. It’s so bad that Kim and take turns pretending to be the callers with horrible traditions like squirrel putting or how grandpa always puts up the mannequin of Santa on the chimney taking a dump. It’s very 9th graderish but then again our humor isn’t always reflective of the sophisticated people we are. Ahem.
            The Big Guy was pretty regimented in his traditions. For as laid back as he could come off, the holidays transpired with almost drill sergeant precision. I used to joke to myself that if our family had a coat of arms then somewhere in Latin was the phrase, “There is a certain way to do things.” It was my father’s creed.
            Take the Richardson family Tree for instance. Growing up in the mountains of North Georgia, Dad always dreamed of cutting down his own tree from the forest. After someone broke into Dr. Dotson’s and Rev. Kay’s Xmas Tree farm and stole every tree, the Big Guy had his chance. Packing the family, the dog and even and axe into his ’75 Blazer, off to the National Forest we drove.
            The Big Guy was determined we’d have an old fashioned family Christmas ( I swear he said it and had not seen Christmas Vacation which meant he didn’t understand why I’d laugh every time he’d say it). Unfortunately, why there are many trees to select from in the forest, they are not groomed to lush, full ornament holding structures like we’d come to expect. 19-year-old Robby enjoyed pointing this out on a repeated basis. To further illustrate myself, I even went so far as to pick up my nine-year-old sister and pass her through one of the holes in the tree. My mother did what she always did best in those days. She ran interference and somehow I had to hike back to the blazer to get the water.
            When I returned, I froze. As I trudged through the chilly North GA air and over a ridge, I could see my father’s body language and tell he was proud of himself. Uh oh. The Big Guy was holding not one but two trees. My sister was excited because this meant a tree to decorate, the dog was doing laps, and my mom seemed perplexed. I could tell she was trying to figure this one out but at the same time not set off the Big Guy’s creative sensibilities. It was a tightrope she could walk blindfolded and with explosions going off. 19-year-old Robby saw this as another opportunity to match wits with his arch nemesis, Dad Man.
            “Robert, how is this going to work?” my mom asked carefully.
            “Jan, it’s simple. None of these trees are full enough but if you take them like this,” The Big Guy wove the two pine trees together. “Bam, you’ve got one full tree!”
            Mary began clapping her hands together. Mom can’t decide if he’s on board and I saw this as my chance to yank the old man’s chain a bit.
            I took a deep breath and went for final vector with no warning. “Not a bad idea but how are we going to keep the damn thing upright? It’s not going to fit in our stand much less be too top heavy once the ornaments are hung.”  I was a bit full of myself at this point.
            “Watch your language, your little sister is here. “ The Big Guy corrected.”Don’t worry about the tree, I’ll figure something out and make it work.
            To drive home the point that the time for discussion was done, the Big Guy began hiking toward his Blazer with tree in tow. He left the bigger tree behind for me to drag back along with the chainsaw and axe. “I really got to remember to keep my mouth shut,” I reflected.
Christmas 1988

            Upon returning to the house, the Big Guy disappeared for several hours to tinker in his shop set up in the garage. I took my cue and began to get Xmas decorations out of the attic to avoid working together. I’d learn years ago that the Big Guy and Robby don’t mix with power tools. Many swear words later, a device was constructed and a Xmas tree was upright in our dining room.
            Looking back, I have to give props to the Big Guy. It looked good. Mom was not thrilled about having to set the tree in a small washtub in on her oriental rug but somehow the Big Guy placated her. Mary put the first ornament on our old fashioned family Christmas tree. We stood back to admire her handiwork only to watch the tree fall over on top of her.
            “Told you it’d be too top heavy.” 19-year-old Robby had impeccable timing.
After my father picked the tree up off my little sister, he disappeared into the garage. Ten minutes later he returned w/ string, hammer, and nails. His idea was so ingenious that I even tried to do the same back during the first Christmas during my experimental marriage project to Satan’s daughter. It did not go ver as well as when teh Big Guy did it. My father used camouflage fishing string tied to two, tiny nails. No one could see the string and our old fashioned Christmas tree made it through the holidays.
We never came up with a name for this Christmas tradition but up until the Big Guy passed away, we’d always go out that first weekend in December to collect two trees which we’d bring home. Once, the Big Guy got so ambitious, he even wove together three trees.
I don’t really miss this tradition but love telling people about it. The funny looks make all the trudging in cold weather worth it. After my father died, we tried to keep most of traditions alive year after year. Some were important which we still do,  but some just didn’t feel right without him there. Some were actually just impractical and that was when my mother did something that I am still proud of her. It was just one sentence but it completely changed how I look at Christmas not to mention all holiday, and made our lives easier.
“Sometimes, it’s time to start a new tradition.”
I now put up my tree the day after Thanksgiving. We don’t have to put everything out which makes putting decorations back much easier. I host Christmas Eve dinner with a small soup and salad meal compared to the huge dinner we used to have. We sleep late on Christmas morning and I buy the Christmas Stolen from World Market rather than making it from scratch.
You know what we still do every Christmas? We have an amazing time.

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