I'm not all that wild about Christmas. It's fine, but I'm not gaga over it. I see my friends and family pretty regularly, anyway, so gathering for the holiday is no big deal. Yes, of course I'll be happy to see my family on Christmas Eve, when I host the celebration. And I do appreciate that it gives folks in the Northern Hemisphere something to focus on other than the dark. But I hate the crass commercialism, the desperate shopping, the frenetic last-minute-ness.
What I do really like about Christmas is a) the music, and b) putting up my tree.
I'm not much of a smartphone photographer, but here's this year's edition.
Last year, I picked out my tree from a lot down in the Seaport, and had them deliver it and put it in the stand. This year, when rumors of the tree shortage started to be heard throughout the land, I ordered one from the same place, sight unseen. I figured that last year's tree was nice and fresh, and this year's would be, too. (The year before, I had gotten my tree at the sale sponsored by a local neighborhood association. It must have been cut the previous May. It was so dried out, I spent the month of December sweeping up pine needles. By Christmas Eve, that tree looked like it belonged to Charlie Brown.)
The fellow who delivered this year's tree did so on a bike. Then it took him about a nanosecond to place it in the stand - I have one of those good foot pump ones - and whatever it cost (which was plenty) was well worth it.
I love decorating my tree.
I put on my Christmas CD's - and I have dozens of them - and start hanging ornaments, most of which have meaning to me.
Here are the little plastic ornaments - the red bells, the red boot, Santa on his sleigh - that my parents hung on their first Christmas in their own place. (The prior Christmas, right after they were married, they were living with my grandparents in Chicago.) Now they were in Worcester. It was 1946. In November, their first child, my sister Margaret, died in a terrible - and entirely avoidable - childbirth incident. Today, it would be a kabillion dollar settlement with the hospital. Back then, it was get back on the bicycle. (My sister Kathleen was born 11 months after Margaret's death.) I think about that first Christmas, how sad it must have been. They thought they'd be enjoying it with a burbling infant...
Those plastic ornaments stood the test of time, though. They hung on every Christmas tree that ever went up in my house, and on my tree for the past 30 or so years, along with other, later ornaments from the family tree.
I also have a couple of ancient glass bulbs, striped, that were my Grandmother Rogers. They're at least 100 years old and I no longer hang them on the tree, but display them safely on my credenza.
Ornaments, sweet ornaments.
The ones my mother made - needlepoint, counted crosstich. The ones commemorating long gone pets. (If you look closely, the felt white and grey cat honors my sister Kath's wonderful cat, Emily. The most dog-like cat I've ever known. And that's a good thing.) The ones I collected on my travels - Ireland, Paris, Budapest, Amsterdam, Prague. NYC, Tucson, the State of Maine. The ones that friends have given to me.
I have a number of lovely brass ornaments, gifts from my cousin Barbara, that are all Worcester-related. The Antiquarian Society. The Salisbury Mansion. The Higgins Armory. The Worcester Auditorium. And my two favorites: a three-decker and a diner. So Worcester.
There are ornaments I bought just because I liked them, including some nifty 50's and 60's beauties I found in an antique shop.
I have a wolf ornament, in honor of my mother's family name.
Beetles. Christmas sweaters. Teapots. Pigs (don't ask).
The polar bear with my niece Molly's name on it. The snowwoman with Caroline's.
I love putting my tree up, singing along with Judy Collins, Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstat, Nat King Cole, Bing. And even Elvis Costello (with the Chieftains). Thinking about everything and everyone that goes into the making of my Christmas tree.
My tree is imperfect. There are spots with too many ornaments, others too few. Sometimes I make adjustments, sometmes I let it be.
In early December, I went on a house tour in Salem, Massachusetts. The homes were all decorated for the holidays. The trees I hated were the ones that were too designer. Boring, bland. One house had two or three perfect trees with green, blue, and purple bulbs. Yawn.
The trees I liked were like mine. They were personal. You knew right away that the family skied, that they had a daughter who was a Madeline fan.
I love putting my tree up, and I don't mind taking it down, either. Which I'll be doing, I'm guessing, the day after New Year's. Packing all my little friends away until next Christmas.
With that, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
In keeping with Pink Slip tradition, I take the week between Christmas and New Year's off and will return on January 3rd.