“Hey Deb? Get me two aspirin.” “Um, Dad, why are you putting the aspirin in the Christmas tree stand?” “The tree has a headache. It needs some aspirin.”
Dad loves his trees. They have to be real. They have to have the perfect shape, the correct amount of branches at the base, and be at least 6 feet tall. When I was a teenager, I had the honor of helping to pick out the tree. Or rather, the honor of holding up hundreds of trees over the years, as Dad walked around mumbling things like “Not tall enough.” “There’s a hole in the tree.” “It’s crooked.” Or, “Hey, now, that’s a nice one, put that one over there and we’ll see what else they got!” Never mind that it was 20 below, or we were standing in a blizzard, or that the Christmas Tree Guy was standing there shaking his head, wishing we would just get it over with so he could get back to his warm shed.
Decorating was the fun part. We had ornaments of various sizes and shapes, and the rule was that the bigger ones went to the back of the branches and the smallest ones to the front. All the balls were glass. No plastic back then. After all the ornaments were hung, then came the tinsel. This was the part where you wished desperately that you would be felled with the flu. Laying in bed shivering with a fever would have been preferable to the hours (and I do mean hours) putting the tinsel on the tree. You see, Dad bought tinsel icicles. That stuff that comes in long single strands. And he required that it went on one strand at a time, from the back of the branch to the very tip. Evenly spaced. And to be honest, the tree was a glorious shimmering vision once done. Over the years, things have changed a bit. I remember being in my twenties and coming home to a tree that only had tinsel on half the tree. Huh? Dad decided that was too much work! Wow, gee, ya think?
Daddy also has a Santa collection, that over the years grew so large that he can now only fit odd or even years on the mantle. I cannot remember the name of the maker of these Santa figurines, and the collections were discontinued at least 25 years ago, but I remember that every year for many years, Dad would patiently wait for the store to send out the notices for the sales, and then weekly from Thanksgiving until Christmas, he would drive at least 45 minutes one way just to go pick up the Santa offered for that week. I have a favorite Santa. Mine is a replica of a 1926 Christmas Card Santa. I always thought it looked like the little girl was holding a severed head. Sort of speaks to my twisted goth heart. Turns out, its a Santa mask that the little girl is holding. That’s what people did in those days when they dressed up as Santa. They wore a mask!
Daddy also likes to have a train under the tree. Seems he had one growing up and has, over the years, collected several. He tells of going to midnight mass every Christmas Eve with my grandmother while my grandfather would stay home to put up their tree, complete with a train underneath. There’s a new train under Dad’s tree this year, with sound effects and a remote control. He said it took forever to put the track together to get it just right so the train can travel round and round underneath the tree.
Over time, Dad has passed down some of his ornaments to me. Each time, I have cried a bit, remembering each one, and how they hung on the trees of my childhood. Each year I put them on my tree and my grandchildren now get to hear the stories of my childhood Christmases with my Dad. And the aspirin? Dad would trim the top of the tree each year so it would be level and the Angel could sit perfectly on the tip top of the tree. He said it gave the tree a headache. Hence the aspirin.
Merry Christmas Daddy, I love you.