Saturday, December 3, 2011

Putting Up The Tree, 50 Years Ago…

When I was a kid, we had the same traditions year after year.  We looked forward to them in anticipation.  I always tried to have similar traditions for my kids when they were growing up.  One of our annual traditions was putting up the Christmas tree.  That day always came on the second Saturday after Thanksgiving. 

My brother and I would wake up around 10 am and have breakfast while we watched cartoons.  My mother would be defrosting steaks for a quick at diner at 1 pm.  After dinner, my father would bring up the tree and ornaments from the basement.  My mother would be preparing a big pot of meat sauce for Sunday dinner.  She minced the garlic, mixed the meatballs and fried them.  The smells of the Sunday sauce filled our four room apartment.  She let the sauce cook at least 90 minutes once all the meat was in the pot.  At 3 pm my parent had coffee.  You could set your watch by our family routines.  After coffee, my father began putting up our artificial four foot tree.  He moved the coffee table against the wall and laid a white blanket on it.  Then, he took the tree out of the box and carefully put the colored lights on it.  Now the lights we used were the large outdoor lights that had bulbs as big as nightlights.  I don’t know if my parents bought the wrong lights or that was all they made back in the day.  But my father took great care in placing each bulb on a separate branch.  Then he would place the garland all around the tree as we watched and waited for our turn to decorate it.  Finally, the tree was ready for the ornaments and he placed it up on the coffee table.  We opened box after box and took our time finding just the right spot for each ball and bell.  My mother stirred her sauce and would come in to glance at our progress.  My father taught us that the larger ornaments should be placed on the bottom branches and the smaller ones on the middle and top branches.  It didn’t take long to decorate the little tree, but when it was done we were so proud of how it looked.  It often reminds me of the Charlie Brown tree and how it looked before and after it was decorated with love.  When we were done, we would put on the lights and just sit there looking at it and anticipating the gifts that Santa would soon place under it.  

I had so much Christmas spirit back then.  I remember how it felt, that overwhelming feeling of joy.  We didn’t have much and yet we had it all really; peace, love and happiness came with our Christmas traditions.  

Once the tree was up, all we had to do was make up our lists.  We checked the TV Guide for all the Christmas shows to be sure not to miss a single one: How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Carol (Mr. MaGoo and Mickey Mouse versions), Rudolph, A Year Without A Santa Claus, Frosty The Snowman and on and on.  And things would be winding down at school too.  If we were lucky we got a little or a lot of snow for a white Christmas.  It really was a magical time full of some of my best memories.

As I think back on it, I realize now that the Grinch was right about Christmas, there is a lot more to it than the gifts, it’s the joyful feelings we have inside that make Christmas what it is and always will be. 

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! "It came without packages, boxes or bags!" And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!

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