Christmas Tree

by John C. Westervelt

For Christmas 2000 my practical mind suggested that I buy a two-foot Christmas tree with lights and put it on the stack tables in the den. We had a live tree each year of my childhood and for the childhood of my children. Before grandchildren had arrived, we had changed to an artificial tree, which was stored in the attic above the garage.

Almost every year of our marriage, Nelda bought a Christmas ornament for the tree. Many of these came from quaint shops visited while on trips and vacations. The toy store ornament acquired at one of these shops, for example, is complete with toys on the first floor and furnished living quarters on the second floor. The brightly painted, wooden, rocking horse has a mane and tail of finely crafted, brown, cotton string. Nelda’s enthusiasm was high when it was time for the family to put the decorations on the tree. Music and snacks added to the festivities.

For the first several years after Nelda died, my grandchildren helped me put the ornaments on the Christmas tree. When they grew too old, Nelda’s mom took up the task since she was at my house every Thanksgiving. This year for the first time, Mary Kim and Robert took me to Grandmother’s in Enid for the Thanksgiving holiday, so my tree-trimming partner didn’t come to my house.

As Nancy Parks, my daughter-in-law’s mother, and I ate hamburgers at Wendy’s on the last day of November, I shared my practical decision. Since my arms and legs, with a touch of arthritis, cringed at the thought of dragging the tree from the attic and having to put the decorations on by myself, I was going to buy a two-foot tree with lights. Nancy told me that the tree store I had used in years past had moved from the Farm Shopping Center to Seventy-first Street.

As I left Asbury around noon each day of the first week of December, I turned north toward home rather than south toward the tree store. It was as if the Honda didn’t like the idea of a two-foot tree. On Friday the temperature was pleasant. I decided to at least get the wreaths for the front door and mantle and the box of blue and green balls for the bay window from the attic.

Next, I retrieved the nativity scene from the top of the bedroom closet. From the bathroom shelf above the towels, I got down my sister-in-law Barbara’s ceramic church and my daughter-in-law Sandy’s cloth house mounted over a cube box of Kleenex with a tissue appearing to be the smoke from the chimney. I took the papier-mâché Mary and Joseph from the hall closet and sat them on the entryway shelf. In the storage space below the end table in the living room, I found the stained glass Mary and Jesus in the manger that I had made years ago.

The lighted ceramic church is supposed to go on the stack tables, which I had planned to use for the two-foot tree. Soon my emotional mind overtook my practical mind, and I found myself back in the attic scooting boxes of Christmas tree parts and decorations to the top of the ladder. In the den the branches were sorted and placed into the holes on the pole. The lights were unscrambled and hung on the tree.

The afternoon and my energy were now depleted. Ken and Sheila Bays had invited my sister Harriette and me to Yuletide 2000 on Saturday night. Before sitting down to rest, I called Harriette and asked if she could come early from Oklahoma City to help me decorate the tree.

She came. At ten o’clock on Saturday morning we were busy choosing ornaments for each branch on the tree. For several that Harriette picked out of the box, she would tell me what family member had made the ornament. Nelda’s mom and my Aunt Werdna had crocheted and tatted the white bells, stars, and snowflakes. Mary Kim, as a child, had painted the flat wooden ornaments. Long lost were the locations of the tiny shops around the country where Nelda had found unique ornaments. I didn’t care then; now I wish I knew.

A little before noon, Harriette left to have lunch with her son’s family. I sat awhile studying the tree covered with family history, and I realized this is the way Christmas is supposed to look.

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