Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, but it was no big deal. I honestly believe it only made it up this year at all because Olivia was so insistent. My mom called the other day to tell me she'd finally finished her outdoor decorating. I said I had, too. She said, "Oh! What did you do this year?" I said, "I changed my wreath."

I'm finding myself feeling very blue this year and I'm having a really difficult time summoning up my Christmas spirit.

As we put up our little artificial tree yesterday, that spirit became more and more squelched rather than coming more and more alive. I think I know why.

When I was growing up, Christmas was rich with tradition. The tree, for example: We would go to a local tree farm with a saw and traipse through the woods - usually through the snow - to find the perfect tree. Dad would cut it down and we would drag it back to the big shelter where a price was determined. They always had a big fire going in the huge stone fireplace and the smell was divine. The smell was Christmas. We would have glazed donuts and Coke out of a bottle. That's a glass bottle, kids. Dad would have coffee. We would linger there till we were warmed up from our winters walk, then one of the guys who worked there would help dad secure the tree to the top of the car. When we got home, the tree was set up and lights were tested then strung around it. Multi-colored lights with great big bulbs. And so it stood (despite my sister and I jumping at the bit to decorate it) until my uncle and his family would come over that evening for dinner and a tree trimming party. Each ornament was lovingly unwrapped and reminisced over before being carefully placed on the tree. The finishing touch was strands and strands of silver tinsel.

Compare that to us putting up our tree this year: An artificial tree was lugged up from the basement. We had to give up real years ago because all of us suffer from such ridiculous allergies. We can visit homes with real trees, but we have a hard time sleeping in them and breathing at the same time. Breathing is kind of a good thing, so we opted to keep doing it, even if it meant going with a yucky artificial tree. So. So the artificial tree with attached lights was popped into place and plugged in. Sort of like an electric umbrella. It's small and in a corner, so there really was no way for us all to work on decorating it. Obviously Tom and I left that task to the girls, who were much more excited than we were. I kept knitting on the couch, sometimes offering words of encouragement or advice. Tom left the room completely and sat at the computer. They strung bead garland (Liv asked why we were putting Mardi-Gras beads on the tree. Heh!) and, at least this part remained familiar: unwrapped and reminisced about each ornament before placing it on the tree. They did not prioritize the way I would have, so some of my favorite "front and center" ornaments wound up on the back of the tree while precedence was lent to some that, well, let's just say I wouldn't have chosen them to receive such honored spots... but that was the chance I took when I opted to stay back and let the girls have at.

It's up.


When did this happen?

When I was in college, we always got a tree and celebrated together, even though our semester was over well before Christmas. My roomates, myself, and several significant others would get together and trim the tree and have a few cocktails. Or get a quarter keg or something - who can remember exactly? We decorated extensively - I remember there not being a single thing in our little apartment that was not lit up or decorated. It was quite festive, in a tacky overdone sort of way. We taped Santa hats to the photographs of people that decorated our home on less festive occasions. (less festive being relative, of course. We were a celebratory lot. We celebrated Friday pretty faithfully. And we held a big party with invitations, decorations, and champagne when Beth and Phillip got married for the first time on Guiding Light...) When our semester was over and we went to our separate homes for Christmas, we donated our still quite usable tree to a local women's charity to brighten up the lives of the kids there. It wasn't all parties and lights.

When I was single, there were a few years I had to force myself to decorate, but after I did, I was always glad. Sometimes I had to drag the spirit in kicking and screaming, but it always arrived.

This year, I'm not so sure. I'm trying.

Oh man, and as I type this? All this business about spirit and lacking spirit and trying to find spirit has caused a little ear worm to find its way in and now all I can hear in my head is Barry Manilow:

Up, down, tryin' to get the feelin' again
All around tryin' to get the feelin' again
The one that made me shiver,
Made my knees start to quiver...

Sorry about that, yo.

I suffer, you suffer. Could've been worse.

And now I'm sort of smiling, because Barry led me right into "Can't Smile Without You" (and now you're hearing THAT in your head! Hah!)

Maybe Barry will help my heart grow three sizes this year and effectively save Christmas.

As for Christmas future - I hope it's not too late to make some really special Christmas memories with my kids before they go off and start making them for themselves.

Maybe next year.

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