Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Silver Aluminum Tree: A Christmas Story

I think it started the year we got the aluminum Christmas tree. Artificial trees were in vogue in the early 70s. My mother had enough of cleaning up pine needles all the way to August. She seized the opportunity and bought one. Silver. She always liked to be a little different so she chose silver.

I was appalled. I was old enough not to believe in Santa anymore so I didn't care about being naughty or nice. I voiced my dissent but it didn't matter. I had been outvoted.

Christmas was never the same for me after that. In fact, ever since I have been seeking the magic of Christmas before the silver tree invaded the living room.

Christmas was a big deal in our house. No matter what our financial situation was my parents managed to have the foot of that tree overflowing with presents. My mother started baking weeks before. It seemed that every day I came home to the aroma of buttery cookies or sweet bread. Our little apartment was filled with Santa Clauses and Snow Men, the windows trimmed in colored lights.

For years our parents had us fooled that the bells from Mom's Christmas apron was really Santa making a quick stop in the living room. I caught on to Dad sneaking the presents in from the garage one Christmas Eve, but kept it to myself. My brother deserved a few more years before the spell of Santa was broken.

And then there was the family. Dad being one of five and Mom one of seven filled our home with our big fat Greek family. Before the silver tree we all exchanged gifts. Christmas morning Dad would pile my brother and I into the car while Mom got dinner started. We traveled the Brooklyn Queens Expressway making stops, dropping off gifts and oohing and ahhing at each relative's tree until we came home to the smell of lamb roasting in the oven.

I complained about that tree for years. Christmas trees were green. Bells were silver. No one paid any mind.

It was never the same after the year of the fake tree. Christmas was still fun, filled with family, food, laughter and gifts but it wasn't the same. And each year it changed more. Yes, there were certain traditions kept, usually having something to do with the food served. But it shifted a bit more each December. People passed. Some moved away. Families expanded. Seeing everyone over a two day period became impossible.

I've been thinking alot about that tree this year. Before that tree when Christmas was over the first thing my brother and I would ask is how many days until it comes again. Now I find myself breathing a sign of relief when it is done and counting the days until I can take the tree down and be on with life.

I like to blame it all on the aluminum tree, but I know that's not it. Things change. Fighting change is generally futile. What it's taken me all this time to learn is that it's easier to embrace it.
Each year since has taken on its own uniqueness. Like this year I'm serving buffett on Christmas Day instead of a sit down dinner. But the one thing that doesn't change is that moment on Christmas Eve when I stop and feel the joy and love that is what the season is all about. That never changes. Silver fake trees or real ones.
Wishing you all a joyous and happy holiday!
Thank you so much for reading my blogs!


Linda Eckstein said...

I don't know if you saw this NYT article in 2004 (url below) It's about a couple who finally surrender to the aluminum trees they kept encountering at yard sales. Their surrender led to fascination and--are you ready--a book about the trees and their history.

So glad to read that you are embracing change. But be careful, an embrace just might lead to a full fledged romance ... scp=2&sq=aluminum%20christmas%20tree&st=cse

Joanne said...

Great post Jo! It brings back wonderful memories of Christmas' past. Merry Christmas and wishing you an exciting New Year ahead.


Jen ( said...

I've been feeling that same disenchantment with Christmas with my extended family lately. It's sad.