Monday, December 14, 2009

Another Christmas Story

A story I sent to an editor more than two years ago found its way into print this month. Editors keep files of old submissins and search through them when they need to find something to fill the pages of whatever publication they work for. The story is a memoir that tells about my family's traditional visit to find a Christmas tree. Some families trudge through snowy woods looking for a tree to cut down, but those who live in big cities like I did find their own meaningful traditions.

Finding the Right Christmas Tree

In the 1940’s, we city folk didn’t cut down a tree in the fields but kept our own tradition. On a cold December evening, Dad announced that it was time to find a Christmas tree. My two younger brothers and I grabbed heavy coats, hats, gloves and snow boots, and ran to the car. Our excitement bubbled over in giggles and hoots.

The corner lot was normally empty; now in December, dozens of trees magically appeared, lined up like soldiers going into battle

.The proprietors had erected a wooden teepee-like frame to display dead deer and an occasional bear in a prominent corner. Animal rights groups didn’t protest in those days.

My brothers and I marched round and round the frozen animals. “Go ahead, touch it,” Howard dared.

My hand reached within inches of the thick, matted fur, but I quickly drew it back. “You first,” I challenged, but Howard only circled the animals, hands behind him. Meanwhile, Dad walked the rows of trees, pulling a few upright, shaking off snow.

He called to us, and we crunched across the frozen snow-packed ground. “No,” we chorused. “It’s not big enough.” We followed Dad and thumbed our noses at several others. “Not big enough,” we said, stamping cold feet.

The owner ambled over, so bundled up he looked akin to the dead bear. He kept a cigar clamped in his teeth and wore gloves with the fingers cut off, so he could peel off dollar bills from the stack he carried.. Dad shook the man’s hand and said, “OK, let’s see the good trees now.” The burly man moved the cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, shook his head and finally gestured for us to follow him.

We moved across the pine-scented lot to a brick building. The man opened a door, and we tromped single-file down a long flight of steps. Dozens of trees leaned against the walls. Dad pulled out one after the other until he found a tree that we three children deemed “big enough.” Silence now, as the serious part of this adventure commenced. Dad and the cigar chomping man dickered about the price. Finally, money changed hands, and Dad hoisted the tree and we jostled one another up the steps to be closer to the green treasure.

Once home, Dad hauled the tree up three flights of stairs to our apartment and put it on our small balcony. I often peered through the glass door to check that no one hadstolen it. Now why I thought someone would climb to the third floor to steal our tree is a wonder.

At last, Dad carried the tree inside and tried to put it in the stand, but it was no use. The tree was too tall. It should have been no surprise, as it happened every year. Dad sawed several inches off the tree. After he strung the lights, Mother helped us hang sparkly ornaments, and we finished with strand upon strand of silver tinsel. Finally, Dad climbed a step-stool and placed the last piece on the top. What joy to see the angel with the pink satin dress and golden wings. There were times I could swear she smiled at me.

That sweet angel got lost somewhere over the years. Most likely, she’d become tattered and torn, and Mother discarded her. How I’d love to have her sitting atop my own tree this year smiling down at me once again. Instead, I’ll put up the angel I bought to replace her. She’s nice but somehow not quite the same.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely, Nancy. I imagine you'll give your new angel a smile, recalling this sweet memory. True -- nice, but not the same. If our memories were decorations.... :)