My Annual Christmas Story
Dad decorated a Christmas tree the way he did everything else, with pride. No, it was not the best or the most adorned, and it would not win any prizes. But it was one of a kind… his.
He did it from the purchase to the last strand of tinsel. He tied it to the roof, drove it home, screwed it into the stand, straightened it, and planted it by the largest window. Dad strung the lights in a spiral, hung the ornaments, the balls… silver, blue, red and green; draped the tinsel, skirted the stand, stuck the star on the top, and stood back. Perfect.
“When I was a kid, we put real candles on our tree. We sat and watched them so the house wouldn’t burn down.”
The first memory I have is seeing the blur of lights, a glow filling the corners of my eyes with mist.. His tree was as green as a summer day and smelled as fresh as evergreens on the side of a mountain. It radiated streams of low winter light that bounced off the balls, the tinsel and the ornaments, filtered through the branches with speckled beams to the rug. The light’s glow and the tree’s aroma meant Christmas.
Each ornament was hung in the same place every year. Angels came alive, Santa brought gifts, balls reflected light and bells rang with joy. In the middle of the tree was Dad’s favorite, a cloth Santa. “I bought that Santa when you were born. It’s as old as you.”
Santa was two thirds the way up the tree. Made of cloth, stitched and glued, he was no more than four inches high, wore a tall red hat with a white cotton rim, a long red jacket that hung to his knees, light blue pants, a brown sack over his left shoulder and black boots. His droopy, pink face and blue eyes sung with joy.
Year after year Dad hung his Santa. The years went by, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty. Santa never failed. He took his place two thirds the way up.
I married and had children. Each Christmas Day, Dad anticipated our arrival, and then he strolled to his tree. “That Santa is as old as your father.”
Over the years Santa aged too; his beard went from white to tan, he lost his left hand, his pants drooped, pine needles stuck to his boots, his sack shriveled, the piping on the front of his jacket needed stitching, the cotton withered.
My Dad died in 1996. We bought a small tree for Mom and decorated it, never failing to place the Santa. Mom died six years later. Disposing of their collection was difficult. As we discarded the old decorations, I panicked. Where was Santa? At the last moment, I found him, surrounded by hunks of tinsel, attached to