Today is my older brother’s birthday, which has many fond memories because December 17 was the day our mother finally let us put up the Christmas tree. It never crossed my mind that Gary Jo might have thought he was cheated, having a birthday so close to, you know, the BIG holiday, and having his party overshadowed by trimming the tree. If it bothered him, I never knew it.
Nor would I have cared, because getting the tree and decorating it was a BIG deal at our house, and we waited for it for months. Four of the six of us shared one big room, half of our basement, and we used to count down the last 65 days until Christmas. And before that, we would count down the days until October 22, when we could start counting down.
As the 17th approached, one of us would get to ride along with dad to Heck’s IGA, where they had a rack of bundled trees leaning up against the building every year. Dad would carefully check each one to get the one that seemed just right, and he always did get it right. We never had a bad tree.
One year, when I was 12, dad let me pick the tree, and it was a thrilling and terrible responsibility. He never minded the mess of needles and sap. He loved the smell and the texture. Our decorations were simple: bright red and blue and green and white and yellow lights as big as his thumb, hand-glittered glass ornaments, and 20 boxes of tensel, placed carefully and evenly, one strand at a time.
Every tree we had growing up was fabulous, but no matter how fabulous, my mom had them down and out on the trash heap by noon, December 26.
Now, on the other hand, we feel bad taking any of our seven trees down before February, and I admit there was at least one year it was still up on April Fool’s Day. This year, so far, anyway, we have a white tree on the porch, the big green tree in the living room, another white tree in the dinning room, a silver tree in the baking kitchen, a pink tree in our bedroom, a mulit-colored tree in Libby's room and another silver one in Aubrey's room. The other green tree, we gave to Lydia for her new house. That's normal. Right?