when the world falls in love …
The velvet voice … Frank Sinatra
And it’s also the time of year for Ralphie
There’s a good reason so many of us have fallen in love with this time of year. Time to watch A Christmas Story marathon, to catch thirty days of Holiday movies on the Hallmark channel. Time to dust off my copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, drag out the CD’s and tapes … hum and skip through the rooms like a fool. Even when alone, I am true to my calling … a total Christmas chestnut.
Speaking of nuts … they never fall too far from the tree and I am certain that Norman was a distant Italian cousin.
This was posted three years ago and for me it never gets old. Enjoy another of my Christmas archives.
A Christmas Tree Story …
There they were … my dad and the big guy … shrugging into flannel and wool … off to buy the tree.
She went to the door and called after them. “And don’t pick the biggest one this time.”
While my mother made more Christmas bread or cookies, the middle one tortured me with the existence or non-existence of Santa, the knowledge of whether I’d get that one special gift or just because he was the middle one and felt compelled to torture me. I’d duly whine or kick and after an hour of ignoring us, someone got the wooden spoon on the leg.
“Ah, Ma. That hurts.”
Then it started. The two big guys would lumber through the front door with the closest replica of the tree at Rockefeller Center a Brooklyn dad and son could find. It took forever to get the darn thing up three flights, turned through the door and put to rest on the kitchen floor.
Of course, it was always too tall. The hack saw was produced,and with jackets and flannel shirts stripped off, they’d start hacking from the bottom.
The big guy handed off the discarded branches to the middle one, “Make sure to save the longer branches in case we have to fill in.”
After the first hour, the stand was attached and the next round of negotiations and ruminations began with a complaint from my mother, “I just waxed that floor.”
The big guy stopped. The tree held suspended in one hand, the other hand holding the floor for ballast. “You knew we were going to get the tree tonight,” he said. “Why did you have to wax today?”
A short dialogue in two languages, a loud protracted huff from my mother, and the tree was ready to stand upright … it’s tallest branch brushing the ceiling. “Don’t worry, Ma. I’ll trim that down a bit.”
It was a real tree. A real smelly, messy, beautiful tree. Not the artificial nightmares of the fifties that looked like petrified tinsel, not an anorexic horror that resembled green pipe cleaners directing traffic.
No, we had the real deal. And the real deal shed pine needles on her freshly waxed floors. The real deal needed lots water, patience and love.
Branches were tied with clothesline to the middle to make the bottom fuller. The top was clipped to fit the angel. Negotiations continued as the middle one handed off tools and I ran for fresh cups of coffee. “Ma, make another pot.”
Oh yes, there is a very good reason why so many of us are in love with A Christmas Story.
Because it’s our story.
The story of the lights and decorations, of cookies baking, and the long anticipated morning when a kid finds wonder and miracles under a tree.
Naturally, each year the two men would promise that when the tree was disassembled this time, the lights would be stored carefully and not thrown haphazardly into the bottom of the cardboard box that held our precious decorations.
Naturally, each year they would be long absent when the tree was finally taken down the morning after “Little Christmas.” I came to believe it was her small revenge against the sweeping of pine needles, of watering said tree, of cleaning around and behind the massive piece of the forest to simply yank off the lights and dump them in a tangle.
The lights on the tree … the fine art of unraveling miles of thick electrical cords and big clunky bright-colored lights. Curses under and over their breath in two languages and in several octaves ensued while I fell asleep on the sofa, and the middle one curled on the floor with a book, occasionally looking up to see it it was done yet.
When the job was done, it was still not done. There were three blues too close together, those two red ones needed to be closer to the top, and of course a white one had to shine against the angel topper. Everyone was rosted to survey. “Don’t you think we have too many green?”
And it never failed. When they had finally found the right mix of colors and had everything finished and ready to go, one of us would see a dead bulb. “I hope we have another red one to replace it.”
“Ma, where did you put the small shoe box with the extra bulbs?”
“Do I have to remember everything?”
My dad pointed to the kitchen. “I put that shoe box under the sink.”
“And I supposed you think I’d leave a box of Christmas bulbs under my sink?”
One year he found the shoe box with the extra bulbs in the bottom of his wardrobe, “This is not the place for bulbs.”
“Neither is the bottom of my sink.”
The deed done and all dead bulbs replaced the tree was finally ready for decorations …
Wait … what was that sizzle, that spark from the bottom of the tree? Could it be an electrical fire that might consume our wonderful Rockefeller Center replica? No it was a blown fuse.
“Get the extra fuses from the hall and be quick about it.”
Yes, I know there are so many wonderful advantages to our modern, real look-alike trees … the ease of assembly … no need to tie extra branches … they are uniformly fat at the bottom … … and those skinny, cool, LED lights can be set to twinkle or not. And even if one hundred of them go dark, you can just string another two hundred in there and no one will notice.
And what about that tinsel? “You put too much on that branch,” the big one instructed. “Put it one strand at a time.”
“No, don’t throw it.”
“And that red ball shouldn’t be too close to the other red balls,” he critiqued. “Space out the colors.”
Our tree never really looked exactly like the one in Rockefeller Center and it didn’t look like the one in Westchester in the center of town square where the big guy raised his family.
But it was all ours, all real, and each year as I prepare to match up the colors to get the artificial tree in perfect order, I feel a twinge of nostalgia remembering our Christmas tree story.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I think I need a stiff eggnog and another round of Ralphie.
Stay tuned for more Christmas fun.
How about you? Are you one of the few left who has the real deal?
Which member of your family was the “chestnut?”