Years and years ago at Christmas our neighbors would go up the Keys and cut down a small pine tree and bring it home to decorate. My father did the next best thing. We went down the street to a little store. He convinced us that we needed to find the poorest looking tree and take it home and make it beautiful. Of course, the saddest looking tree was also the cheapest, my father not about pay a lot for a tree he would put out with the garbage in a few weeks. We dragged it home. My father cut some wayward branches, tied them to bare spaces, turned the worst side to the wall. After the bubble lights and ornaments and tinsel were on, it was quite beautiful.
Our first year of marriage, we were going to Key West for Christmas. We put a wreath on the door of our small apartment, put a string of lights around it and pushed the plug under the door to a socket. In Key West, I took my husband to St Paul’s Episcopal Church for Christmas Eve service. St. Paul’s is very “high church” and when the thurifer came down the aisle swinging a thuribel filled with incense, my Presbyterian raised husband looked shocked and I think wondered what he had got himself into.
We moved to a larger apartment the next year and my husband decided to buy a live tree and use it every year. We went to a live Christmas tree farm and brought a tree home, root ball and all. We kept it in the living room until February and then put it out on our balcony with our parrot Atticus we had bought the previous year and had shipped to New Jersey. A little Bobwhite came and sat on the rail for hours looking at Atticus and the dying Christmas tree.
Then later we lived in a big house that we renovated. There was an 8-sq. ft. opening in the atrium going from the downstairs to the upstairs. We found a good deal on a 20 ft. tree and decided we could put it in the atrium. It looked pretty good on the top floor, but a little truncated below and it was really difficult to decorate.
The next year we put a tree upstairs and decided to light a fire in the fireplace using some newfangled fake log and somehow a conflagration ensued. Peter grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprayed white fire-retardant stuff all over the fireplace, Christmas tree, presents and adjacent furniture. It was not exactly the white Christmas we had in mind and we had to clean it up. It was a mess.
Then there was the year my husband was deployed for the 2nd Christmas in a row. My in-laws were ecstatic to have their grandson to themselves and my good friend made me a little tree to take with me to spend Christmas with Peter. I made a reservation at a small pensione in Florence across from the Lorenzo de Medici Palace. We took the train from Naples and arrived at the pensione at about 9 PM on Christmas Eve. There was no one around and the place was closed up tight. Nevertheless, the taxi driver knocked on the door and a man came to the balcony over the door and said they were closed for the holiday. He asked what we wanted. We said a room with a bath. He said OK and showed us to a room. We think it might have been his not wanting to refuse a room at his Inn to a young couple on Christmas Eve. Whatever, it was a beautiful room, old furniture, immaculately clean. It turned out there was a tub, a bidet and a sink and one small towel and enough hot water each morning for one tub of water. It turned out the toilet was across the lobby in the corner of a large room with nothing else in it. We put the little Christmas Tree on the dresser and settled down for the night in our big comfortable white bed. All this for only six dollars a night. We stayed for five days. On Christmas Day, everyone was out shopping. Beautiful art everywhere. Peter said there were even paintings by renaissance masters in the restaurant bathrooms.
Then years later I talked the florist lady at the grocery store into selling me a very modern outre display tree she had made. I must say it looked better in the store. And as with most things of this sort, the more you mess with it the worse it got. That was when I think my grandchildren started to wonder about me. My granddaughters were speechless. My children I’m sure thought I had gone around the bend. Peter was just glad not to have to mess with boxes, lights, ornaments, tree stand, etc to put up a tree he had just paid $80 for and had to untie from the roof of his car and drag into the house. He thought my little outre tree I paid $20 for was lovely. It warmed my heart.
A few Christmases ago the family was coming to KW for Christmas. Peter went to Kmart and bought a good size artificial tree with LED lights on it. You just had to insert the branches onto the trunk. It took Peter 15 minutes to assemble. I bought cute little Key West ornaments from Fast Buck Freddie’s and left them for the girls to put on. The favorite ornament was a little pair of flip-flops. Times have changed. Sometimes I yearn for the good old days of excitement and delight and Santa. Merry Christmas to all.