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Tiaras and Trucks

Monday, December 19, 2011

Making Real Holiday Memories

Our Christmas tree this year is a little more Charlie Brown than Rockefeller Center, gaps in the branches letting in the light streaming through the windows.


Despite the promise shown at the store, our tree has proven to be the final cog in my husband’s case for an artificial tree, an argument that began on Thanksgiving Day, when my brother proclaimed they were getting an artificial tree this year.

My reluctance to leave our real fir at the curb for recycling for the last time has less to do with the joy I get from a real tree and more to do with the memories hidden within the branches already shedding needles at an alarming rate.

I can see my parents walking up and down rows of trees, holding one than another at arms’ length, gauging the straightness of the trunk, the symmetry of the branches, the ability to hide the sparser sections in the corner of the room.

I can feel my nose tightening in the cold, breath warm within my scarf, digging gloved fingers deeper into my coat pockets as I pushed snow around with the toes of my boots.

The warm blast of air from my mother’s kitchen floats through my mind, wrapping me warmly in the anticipation of knowing we would have to wait patiently, maybe as long as twenty-four hours, before the branches relaxed from the cold enough to hang ropes of gold garland and multi-colored lights.

My family’s prized ornament gently hangs on my mother’s real tree in the same spot each year, a faded red candle my dad made in first grade is always front and center, out of the reach of little fingers not yet ready to understand that paper and glue can be more valuable than delicate glass bulbs.

These memories hang in my mind tied to the sap-infused branches of a real Christmas tree.

Artificial trees come out of boxes.

My lower lip trembled into a pout at the thought of giving up a real tree, the thought of depriving my kids of those memories pulled freshly to the surface each time I smell the freshly cut branches of a Christmas tree.

So I sought the words of the wise Dr. Seuss:


Memories and magic and tradition aren’t linked to the tree.

They’re linked to my mother’s no-nonsense choice of a tree short enough to be easily decorated by my short family.

They’re linked to my dad’s eyes sparkling bluely between his beard and a Carhartt hat.

Next year, our tree will likely come from a box, twinkling with hundreds of already-attached lights.

But our holiday memories? Those will come from me.


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42 Comments:

  • At December 19, 2011 at 8:46 AM , Anonymous Missy | Literal Mom said...

    It's so nice that you see this - that Christmas memories are what you make of them.  I'm sure it's hard to say goodbye to a live tree, but your family will cherish the new traditions too.  

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:04 AM , Anonymous Evonne said...

    For the first time, we have enough of our own ornaments to fully cover our tree.  We have a pre-lit artificial tree, but even if it was real, it wouldn't matter.  It's what those branches hold that's important.

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:04 AM , Anonymous Cameron (CDG) said...

    You've got it.

    And for the record, there is nothing Charlie Brownish about that tree!

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:24 AM , Anonymous Elena said...

    The great debate: real vs. fake tree. I agree - Christmas memories are what you make of them. And that tree is adorable - not Charlie Brown at all!

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:29 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Oh thank you :)  What do you guys do?  I am trying to figure out if it is regional ;)

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:29 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    It's forgiving in the darkness, with lights twinkling and blinds closed.  It's in the daylight that it shows its true colors. 

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:30 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Yes!  Absolutely :)

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:30 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    I will love being able to put it up earlier and enjoy it more, that's for sure.  I'm already going bonkers with the falling needles!

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 10:24 AM , Anonymous Liz said...

    It's so crazy how the little things can be so much more of what comprises our memories for the holidays.

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 10:33 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    I'm hoping that foregoing the real tree just makes room for more little things my kids will remember fondly.  Like my irritation when the pre-lit lights start going out ;)

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 10:43 AM , Anonymous Tania Elfersy said...

    Those memories, the sparkles of the holiday season will only become cherished with you and your LOVE. That's what makes them so special. How do I know that? I don't celebrate Christmas but I still have wonderful memories of it as a child because it was a time when all the family was on holiday from work and school, having fun together :-)

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 5:07 PM , Anonymous CinderellaDuty Becky said...

    Such sweet memories! Mine are very similar and just as dear. We LOVED picking out our tree & chopping it down. Sometimes, we even pulled it out of the woods on horseback. Funny, I wrote about my Christmas tree today, too! Visit me sometime at http://cinderelladuty.blogspot.com.

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 5:28 PM , Anonymous TLanceB said...

    Our tree is experiencing her last Christmas (see twitter picture of her on my profile). She's very skinny, due to a meth problem, and she picks fights with our kittens.

    This season ahs been hectic due to a busy, quirky blended family schedule. We are having to turn down some get togethers because we cant do everything and maintain sanity in our home.

    There's an undercurrent of peace among the five of us, though. It's liek we're jelling together because of the stress.

    Happy Holiday and Merry Christmas to you and your family, Angela

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 5:38 PM , Anonymous Juliecgardner said...

    I love this. And I'm going to make my husband read it (while I sweep up more dead needles. Again).

    We have always had a real tree (and yes, in my childhood we cut them down from a real farm) and Bill has refused to give up the dream of the smell of REAL pine.

    But. He also likes to put our tree up right after Thanksgiving. Which means our tree right now smells like dead.

    And by New Year's it may be worse. Not to mention a fire hazard.
    So yes. I really want him to read this. 

    And then we'll still probably get a real tree again next year.
    But. 

    Baby steps.

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 6:56 PM , Anonymous shellthings said...

    Oh, how I love this! 

    Yes, the memories come from the people, not from a box. 

    Our tree is definitely a Charlie Brown special. 

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 7:48 PM , Anonymous Jessica said...

    My mom has a fake tree and we have always had real ones. Helping her unpack the fake tree this year I was thinking about the differences between the two and how I always want a real tree. But what you said at the end is so true, it's not the actual tree but the memories that are associated with the holiday. 

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 8:52 PM , Anonymous jentos23 said...

    This is beautiful, Angela. We always go for the real tree here too, but you will have wonderful memories from any kind of tree...because you are SO right, the memories come from you!
    Have a very Merry Christmas week!

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:11 PM , Anonymous Jackie Park-Cross said...

    As a kid we always had a real tree and to this day my parents still get one! I miss it and hope that one of these days we ditch the fake tree and go for the real one.

     
  • At December 19, 2011 at 9:39 PM , Anonymous Sweaty said...

    Aw, Angela... you wrote this so beautifully, it was as if I was in your mind, seeing and sensing things as if they were before my very eyes!  I could totally understand your attachment to a real Christmas tree vs. artificial one.  I would too, if I had those wonderful childhood memories!  But again, you, wise woman, have gotten it right when you said that those kinds of memories didn't come from a real or fake tree.  They were created by loved ones, and now by you when it comes to your children.

    These words were my favorite, though: "...out of
    the reach of little fingers not yet ready to understand that paper and
    glue can be more valuable than delicate glass bulbs."  So, so perfectly put!

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 12:26 AM , Anonymous Kimberly said...

    You're so right. It's not the actual tree, it's the memories you make as a family.

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:25 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Well, this year many of our memories involve replacing the ornaments Dylan pulls off in excitement, chanting "ho ho ho!" :)

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:26 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Oh thank you!  We love that ornament my dad made, complete with the go-to craft supply of toilet paper roll :)

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:26 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    My parents get one, too.  I figure if I do go for a fake one, I can go to their house for my pine needle fix ;)

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:27 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Thanks Jen!  And Merry Christmas week to you, too.  There is something just a little special about a real tree.  At least until I am vaccuming.  Again.

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:28 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Uh oh, so many people are talking about keeping their real trees!  My resolve to go artificial next year might be weakening :)

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:28 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    We didn't think ours was too bad when we bought it, but it is somehow too tall, really bushy at the top, and then sparse on the bottom with branches sticking much too far out there!  It's funny :)

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:30 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Yes!  That's part of the reason artificial appeals to me just a little.  I could put it up and keep it up for the whole season (Thanksgiving till New Year's.)  And I absolutely hear you on the fire hazard.  I can practically hear it sucking up the water from here.

    I am searching for the perfect pine scented candle.  I'll let you know.

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:31 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, too. 

    Weird thing to say, but I love when stress brings a family together instead of creating distance between them.  I was thinking about your blended family post the other day while writing out our schedule for the next couple of weeks.

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:33 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    I don't remember ever doing that, but I thought about it this year.  Then I thought about the distance my son could cover while Ryan and I were busy cutting down a tree.  He's fast, that one!

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 8:35 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

    I love hearing that.  Even if it isn't a religious holiday for families, it must be nice to have the time off together.  Perhaps even a little more special because of the lack of expectations.

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 10:34 AM , Anonymous lisa from insignificant @ best said...

    I love this post.  It's so true!  It's so easy to hang on to the physical things because of the memories, but the real memories are within us.  What a great reminder!

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 1:12 PM , Anonymous Some call me John said...

    I always had an artificial tree as a kid . . . and when I married my wife, on December 27, we decorated in Christmas trees.

    I will say, it's a pain to set up, and every year, the tree "bites" me and I end up with lots of tiny little pinpricks...I'm actually considering buying a pre-lit tree for next year, though.

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 1:59 PM , Anonymous Kateshrewsday said...

    Ah, so topical for us, this post: and wonderfully written. 

    We brought in a beautiful real tree on December 2nd. we adored it: but it shed needles copiously, what with the dog using the lower branches to scratch his back, and my visiting nephew developing a new pinata-like game with a baseball bat. It was the smell that was more glorious than anything. Last weekend we pensioned the real tree off to the forest and got out our trusty old improper tree.It does look lovely: it looks like home.

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 2:21 PM , Anonymous Kimberly said...

    This is just...wow. So incredibly written...and oh so true.
    Mine aren't from the tree...it's the ornaments. Sure our tree will never be in a Martha Stewart magazine. It looks like a friggen turkish bizzar...but the memories in the ornaments...where they came from...where we were in our lives at that particular time...that's special

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 4:09 PM , Anonymous Kpiccini said...

    I am from "artificial tree folk" and I prefer them.....for just this reason that I enjoy him without being angry with him for weeks about shedding and the dog's tail and the sap etc. It's the ornamnets and lights and honestly just the sight of him when I walk in the house...assuring me that it is Christmas and I can enjoy it without stress . Plus I love putting it up before Thanksgiving and taking it well after Jan 1st. It makes me happy, joyful and content..isn't that the point of the season????

    Love your tree..but the memories are the things that won't shed...you said it so beautifully here my friend. Xo

     
  • At December 20, 2011 at 9:00 PM , Anonymous Elena Sonnino said...

    Angela, this was beautifully written!!!  Italians (In Italy) have fake trees.  Also, my mom likes decorating her rosemary bush with a few ornaments.  I guess the good news about Hanukkah is that there are no trees...just lots of candles.  :)

     
  • At December 21, 2011 at 8:49 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Yes, I used to have a hard time throwing things away, but I'm getting better at it.

     
  • At December 21, 2011 at 8:50 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    We can shop together. 

    Also, what a fun anniversary :)

     
  • At December 21, 2011 at 8:51 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Oh my; I love that you've already had and gotten rid of a real tree this year.  And the baseball bat game?  That's going to be my son in a couple of years; I just know it.

     
  • At December 21, 2011 at 8:52 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Yes!  The turkish bazaar.  We have that as well.  Every color and material under the sun is represented within our ornaments.

     
  • At December 21, 2011 at 8:56 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Yes!  One of the things that I'm excited about if we do get an artificial tree is that I can put it up earlier and keep it up longer.

     
  • At December 21, 2011 at 8:56 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Mmm, rosemary...Dylan is pretty fascinated by the menorah.

     

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