Monday, December 14, 2009

The Best Christmas Tree Ever

With the exception of about nine months after I graduated from college (and college itself, of course), I lived with my parents until I was nearly twenty-five years old. Part of it was economic (I was an idealist and worked for a non-profit), but part of it was that I really enjoyed coming home to have dinner with my whole family. I enjoyed going out to the movies with my younger brothers on the weekends and going for walks with Mama every day after work. And I really loved preparing for Christmas the same way we had always done.

My parents have always gotten a live Christmas tree. Some years were prettier than others. Sometimes we got a tree from the woods, and sometimes from a tree farm. Some tree farms shape their trees better than others. Some years are just hard on Christmas trees. This story is about the most beautiful tree we ever had.

This story takes place when I was an adult - I think it was 1998. (I moved back in with my parents in June of 1998, after graduating in 1997.) Mama and I (and perhaps the rest of our family) had not had much Christmas spirit since 1995. My Grandma (Mama's mama) passed away in March of 1995 and as if that wasn't going to make the holidays difficult enough, my boyfriend was in a fatal car accident about three weeks before Thanksgiving. So both of us lost our enthusiasm for Christmas for several years. My youngest brother, who was born with a love of Christmas, had done most of the decorating in the meantime.

But in 1998, we both got excited and wanted to have a nice Christmas.

Our tree was so pretty. It was nicely shaped, about seven or eight feet tall, wide at the bottom and a gentle slope upward. I think it was a Douglas fir, so it was a pale mint green with delicate needles. It was full. Such a beautiful tree.

Sometimes we used colored lights, but this year we chose a strand of white lights. We couldn't find a lot of our ornaments, only the red velvety bows that we tied onto the ends of the branches.

Since we couldn't find most of our ornaments and I had become obsessed with recipes, Mama and I decided to make gingerbread men to hang on the tree. Martha Stewart had a syndicated column in our paper (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), and we found the recipe specifically designed for gingerbread ornaments there. We always had ingredients for baking in the house. We were set.

Making the ornaments was a fun experience, but nothing compared to seeing the gingerbread men hanging from the tree. It was the perfect tree - the traditional tree that I imagine when I think back on Christmas trees from my parents' home.

We didn't take a lot of pictures back then - not by my standards today. It was a few weeks before Christmas, and it was well past dark when we finished. We went to bed, intending to take the pictures later.

The next morning, I entered the living room, anticipating our beautiful tree, only to find the floor littered with little headless gingerbread men. The heads were still hanging from the tree. I can laugh about this now (a little) but at the time, I am pretty sure I sat down and cried.

So I have no photo of our beautiful tree. I am trying to draw the scene, but it hasn't worked so far. I'm trying to get over my hangups about my drawing abilities, since I believe that all children are born with the ability and confidence to draw.

I've had beautiful trees since, but I haven't had the courage to try gingerbread ornaments again. And I think Martha Stewart's crafts are beautiful, but I may never trust her again.


Cheri said...

The important thing is that the tree was beautiful even if only for a few hours and you & your mom found your Christmas spirit again. Your words paint the image beautifully, no photos are necessary.

Tamsie said...

The headless gingerbread men are quite a picture! Thanks for taking the time to set down this thoughtful and well-written post!

Sian said...

Lovely story..I really enjoyed thhis one. Such a shame but I'm glad you can have a little laugh about it now.

Rachel said...

Oh no! After so much work. What a story! At least it was memorable! Sometimes beauty is fleeting, huh?
It almost seems mean to say I loved this story, but really, I did. :)

Rob Stanford said...

I love live trees and I'm glad you can laugh about the gingerbread men now...