Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Regardless

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without  . . .  You fill in the blank. There are so many little parts that come together to form our holiday memories. These things become so special, that we think we can’t celebrate without them.

My husband and I were both raised with live Christmas trees in our house every year. For him, the decorating process started with a trip to the woods to cut down a fresh cedar tree, which grow in abundance in the Ouachita area. As a small-town girl, a trip to the local tree lot served the same purpose. When we married, it was a given that our living room would have to be rearranged to make a spot for this traditional symbol of celebration. More memorable than any other, though was the last live tree we had as a couple.

That year, James and his best friend (and best man at our wedding), Raymond traveled to the family’s property in Perry County. After hiking around to find two of the best specimens, they were enjoying the camaraderie. Until the truck got stuck. We’re not talking about a temporary, spin your wheels event here. This truck was down in the mud with no hope of emerging stuck. Raymond became acquainted with many of James’ relatives that day, as all tried everything they could to dislodge the vehicle and get it back on the road. The little cabin on the property was not heated, so between tries, the only way to warm up was for the two young men to sit with their feet propped on the open electric oven door. Meanwhile, Raymond’s new wife and I were in pre-cell phone oblivion, happily baking cookies at home. As I remember, James didn’t even bring our last live tree in the house when he finally arrived. It was propped rather unceremoniously in the front yard. We went to Wal-Mart and purchased our first artificial model.

At my Granny’s house, the tree was quite different. Purchased in the early sixties, it was the shiny aluminum table top variety. It was decorated rather sparsely, with of course no electric lights and no need for tinsel. The magic happened at night, when the accompanying color wheel was plugged in, and it went through variations of red, green, blue, and gold. Of course, for me and my cousins, the tree was secondary to the pile of presents that surrounded and sometimes obscured it completely. The first Christmas she didn’t put that tree up was a huge adjustment for me, and I miss it, along with the angel-topped wind-up music box, and the tinkling candle-powered mobile that always sat at a safe distance.

For children, the type of tree may not be the most important memory at all. Our oldest grandson has a special favorite. Each time he comes to our house, he looks for Tigger in a box. When he doesn’t find it, we discuss the concept of “seasonal” decorations, and how Tigger will be displayed at the appropriate time.  This cheerful contraption sits on my dining room hutch, looking like an innocent but brightly decorated package. By pressing the button, you get the Disney version of A.A. Milne’s bouncy character with such gems of wisdom as “Hello, I’m your Christ-ee-mas present”, as he pops up and then back inside the box with a snap. The two younger grands have enjoyed this as well, and consequently, the mechanical parts are wearing out.  It soon may be time to retire Tigger and start a new tradition, form some new memories.

Years go by, celebrations change. We miss some faces around the tree. But through it all, Christmas continues. Whether we celebrate on the 24th, the 25th, or even some other day, the meaning and reason for it all remains constant. Once upon a time, seeing our desperate need, God decided to come down, in the person of His son, to help us. We celebrate, the hope, the assurance that we can find our way Home at the end of our journey. Christmas happens, no matter what. No matter how, or even if, we choose to celebrate. God’s wonderful gift is there for all. Have a truly blessed Christmas.

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