The eternal Christmas tree

Dec. 20 and I just put the tree up! Each year it varies. This year I’ve spent December alternately being sick or baking 20 dozen cookies. (Note to all friends and family: I only baked when I was healthy. Promise!)

Tonight I put up the tree I “inherited” from Dad when they downsized to a patio home. Here’s the story I wrote about that tree 17 years ago for The Georgia Guardian newspaper. Tomorrow or Thursday I’ll post pictures of the decorated 2010 tree. Tonight you’ll have to make do with a picture of Pickles sitting underneath the tree:

Pickles underneath the Christmas tree.

Pickles poses by a copy of the original story of our family tree. Dad loved the story so much he matted and framed it. Once you read it, you’ll see why.

A Tree for All Seasons

First published in the Georgia Guardian, Dec. 24, 1993
Copyright Jennifer Rust

Every family has its Yuletide traditions, and ours is no exception. We’ll be going to parties, attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church and decorating the tree. Yet we do something lots of people would never dream of: We pull our tree out of the attic each year.

Yes, we have an artificial tree. During my impossible-to live-with teenage years, I continually referred to it as the fake tree. I would groan and roll my eyes each time my dad pulled it out of its box, telling the story of how he bought it in 1968 for only $15. (What a bargain, I can hear him say.)

When I was in high school I would beg my parents to buy a real tree. We could decorate it with strings of popcorn and other “natural” ornaments. But each year we’d re-assemble that same old tree, sticking branches into the holes on the trunk pole and bending them into place so they’d look right.

As time passed, my brother and I graduated, left the house, got jobs. Now, I have only a few days at home to celebrate the holiday. And I’ve noticed a change in the way I feel about that tree. It happened the year before last, when my dad said, “I think we might replace this one with a new tree.”

You would have thought he suggested we replace Mom. I gasped, “No! You can’t get rid of this tree!” Even as I said it I realized why.

Because of all the laughs we have putting it up each year … because all the made-in-kindergarten ornaments look just right on it … because we’ve had it for 25 years, and how many things last that long? Heck, that tree is the same age as my brother Bill and we’re keeping him.

That artificial, fake but eternal tree has become so much more than a decorative centerpiece upon which to hang the ornaments. It is a symbol of all those Christmases past and all the memories we share. That glorious fake fir has become a holiday tradition of its won. I wouldn’t trade it for the most majestic blue spruce around.

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