09 December 2009

Christmases Past - Trees I Have Loved



I've been using this photo as my profile picture on Facebook recently because it represents the magic I always felt as a child at Christmas. This was taken in 1959 when I was four. It was after Christmas because the gifts had been opened. It is the only photo I have of myself at Christmas, ever. In reality I think the occasion was actually the annual screening of The Wizard of Oz on TV. They always showed it on the Sunday night between Christmas and New Year's.

I used to get revved up in a complete frenzy of anticipated delight. It was the only children's movie I had ever seen and I loved, loved, loved it, even though the Wicked Witch of the West scared the wind out of me. I don't think I dared uncover my eyes until I was about eight or nine years old! Anyway, you can see the big upholstered chair near the fireplace. My father sat in that religiously, but abandoned it for the Wizard of Oz. Part of the evening's thrill was that I got to sit in Daddy's chair. We'd always have a big fire in the fireplace on Sundays, and that night we'd re-light it for the show. They probably took this photo of me because I was already psyched for it to start. This particular night, my mother stoked a bunch of logs and got a rip-roaring fire going. I don't know what happened to the fireplace screen, but at some point, a tiny ember made its way onto the big chair so that when I climbed into it, I got a stinging pain in my bum!  I must have screamed and cried, but all I remember is being highly insulted that the chair had bitten me, and then laughing with teary relief when I found out what it was and put my finger through the hole it left. My poor parents.

At the moment the photo was taken, I was gazing upon the tree with loving wonder. You have these childhood memories of big glorious trees with bright lights, shiny ornaments sparkling and glistening. Not quite what the photo reveals. Looking back on it now, we had some pretty pathetic trees. I just didn't realize it. My frugal father was not into wasting money on a tree when we could just go out in the woods and get our own. Problem was, living on the South Shore of Massachusetts meant there was not an abundance of what we think of as Christmas trees. Not quite the scrub pines of Cape Cod, but no great majestic evergreens of Northern New England or Canada, where most of us now get our Christmas trees imported from.

Instead, what we ended up with was a spindley white pine that could barely hold ornaments. I didn't even notice when I was little, but probably about the same time I figured out the Santa deception, when I looked to the trappings to produce the magic for me instead of Santa, the white pines didn't cut it. Ever stuck in the middle, my mother would buy a tree and tell my father she had paid only a quarter of the price she had actually paid, just so I could have a wondrous tree to behold. They got better and better in reality over the years, but the ones I saw in my early childhood can never ever be topped, except by an angel!

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