Monday, December 23, 2013

A memory on every branch ~ My Christmas column from this week's newspapers

There are so many things that live in a special part of my memory that I only visit at Christmastime. 

Our family’s tree when I was a child is one thing I keep there. Growing up, it would never have occurred to my mom or dad to buy a Christmas tree.

When it came time for the tree, my mom would send my older brother Neil and me to the woods with a dull ax to fetch one. 

I’m not sure why we never thought to sharpen that old ax, but we never did. As a result, it would have been quicker for us to gnaw the tree down with our teeth.

One year my mom bought bubble lights. I remember spending what seemed like hours watching those fizzling red, green, blue and purple bulbs. 

When you plugged them in, it took a while for them to warm up. Watching for the first bulb to bubble was a game I played with my older sister Mary Lois.

This week we put up our Christmas tree. Well, to be truthful, Jilda decorated while I gently handed her the ornaments. 

We play a little game too. It’s called, “Where in the heck did this one come from?” Jilda’s a professional at this game. 

She not only remembers where they came from, but what year and what circumstances brought them to us. “This one was a gift from our friends Tom and Judy. Hospice gave this one to us the year my mom died.” 

We also have ornaments that she made before we were married. I think Lyndon Johnson was in the White House back then.

Each ornament is special to us.

A few days ago, I was under tight deadlines with several projects nipping at my concentration like a pack of hungry wolverines.

Just then I heard a tentative knock at the front door. When I opened it, my great nephew
Jordan was standing there.

“Are you ready to get my Charlie Brown Christmas tree?” It’s something we’ve done each year since he was old enough to walk.

I snapped the laptop closed and told him we’d been waiting for him all day. He beamed.

Jilda wrapped up and I stepped out to the shed to get my dull ax (some things never change.)

Off we went in search of the perfect Charlie Brown tree. I’ve learned that his idea of a “perfect tree” and mine are totally different.

I look for a tree the right size that is balanced with limbs to support a strand of lights and his ornaments.

He uses slightly different criteria. Although I haven’t figured out his methodology, he always knows the instant he finds his tree.

He doesn’t care if all the limbs are on one side or if most of them are toward the bottom. It’s always his decision.

He made his selection and I beat it down with the ax. He dragged it to a clearing, where I had him stand beside it so that I could snap a photo.

Afterwards we took it to his front deck and put it in his cinderblock tree stand. I think he has a patent pending on that invention.

Like in years past, Jilda gave him several of our old ornaments and told him the history of each one.

I’m not sure if any of our Christmas traditions will resonate when he gets older, but I hope he remembers that each time we decorated his Charlie Brown tree, there was a story on every branch. 


  1. A Happy and Merry Christmas to you and your family. : )

  2. Merry Christmas Rick :)

    I am sure he will remember, I do that with my daughters when we decorate our tree... some really good memories :)

  3. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Rick.
    Happy New Year to you.
    Warmest smiles,

  4. He will always remember these things Rick. Trust me on that one!


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