When I was growing up, we would go to my Grandma’s house every year for Christmas. I remember lots of people, lots of food, and lots of football on TV. I loved it. One of Grandma’s traditions every year, though, was putting up the Christmas tree. While other homes were spending hours picking out the right tree, placing it in just the right spot, and decorating it, Grandma would pull her tree out of the attic, plop it in the living room, whip off the large black garbage bag, and voila! Instant Christmas tree! I remember hanging a few more Christmas bulbs and draping tinsel on the branches. The first presents under the tree were gift-wrapped bricks. I kid you not. I never understood that tradition, but there they were. Grandma was the only person I knew who had gift-wrapped bricks mixed in with everyone else’s presents.
While I loved helping decorate the tree, I personally always wanted a real tree – picked out and drug home, filling the house with the scent of Christmas. Once I moved out, I did just that. Every year, I had a real tree. I became a Christmas tree snob. After my divorce, buying a Christmas tree suddenly turned into an unaffordable luxury. Mom had an extra tree that she let me use. At first, I balked. It wasn’t real. I wasn’t going to be able to hang real lights from it because it was pre-lit. I felt I was being robbed, but I put the tree up anyway, decorating it with my few precious ornaments. It was nice. It was pretty, I admitted. And if you looked at it at an angle, you almost couldn’t tell it wasn’t real. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Years passed. My ornament collection grew bit by bit. This year, I had no qualms about whipping that tree out of the box and plopping it next to my front window, pre-lit and standing in all its fake glory. A few ornaments later and voila! I had a fully-decorated Christmas tree. I was able to relax on the couch, drink my cocoa, crochet another ornament, and watch the football game while everyone else wrestled with boulder-shaped tangles of Christmas lights and were vacuuming up needles that trailed everywhere. I may even wrap a brick or two to put under the tree. Merry Christmas, Grandma.