Friday, December 21, 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship with Christmas Trees

This year I REALLY didn't want to put up my Christmas tree. My 63 year-old body protests at the thought of bringing all of the boxes down from the attic, assembling the parts, stringing the lights, putting on the ornaments and cleaning up the fake needles from the floor. In addition to all of this, it's the memories that put me in a melancholy mood . . .

Memory #1:

When I recall the Christmas trees of my youth, I can't help but recall how excited we all were to decorate the tree. The rule in our house, however, was that we could not do anything until Dad strung the lights. He was an electrician, after all, and the lights weren't LED lights as they are now. It was probably best that he string the lights. I remember anxiously waiting for him to get finished -- then we could have at it. The style back then was to hang "icicles" from all of the branches. As kids, we didn't have the patience to place them one at a time on the branches, and I'm sure Mom followed behind us "fixing" everything we did. The trees were always "live." I searched through photo albums and found this picture of my brother, Ted, and sister, Karen, in front of a tree when we lived in Golf Manor. It was our "cowboy" phase. I bet there are a lot of you who grew up in the 50's who remember that time well.

Ted and Karen in front of our tree ca. 1958

Memory #2:

In 1959, we moved to Pleasant Ridge. This was truly the home of our youth. The arrival of Dan in April of 1959 made it nearly impossible for us to continue living in the small three-bedroom Golf Manor home now that we were a family of eight. It was sometime during that period that I'm sure Dad became perfectly happy with relinquishing some of his "tree" duties. It was also during this era that Scotch Pines became the preferred tree in our family. I have numerous pictures of me, my siblings and my cousins, all lined up in birth order, in front of those trees. I was even able to find one of Dad showing off his new robe. (Note Tom in the lower right-hand corner).

Memory #3:

I'm sure that tucked away in my memory are several examples of Christmas trees that I put up with my husband at the time, Bob. I'm sure we enjoyed putting up a tree for Elizabeth's first Christmas. But what I REALLY remember is the Christmas of 1979. I was newly-divorced with a one-year old baby. I was in no mood to celebrate Christmas, but felt I HAD to get it together for Elizabeth. So I took my newly-single self over to the Blue Ash YMCA, bought a live tree, and brought the thing home. (To say I didn't care about it is an understatement). I lived in a second-floor apartment. I tied a rope to the tree, hoisted it up and over the balcony railing and decorated it. I'll never forget the feeling. Having accomplished that, I felt for the first time since my divorce that I would "make it" as a single parent.

Memory #4:

Fast forward about ten years, and I'm now married to Bill. Bill has never had a love of putting up Christmas trees, partly because he could never buy a tree that was the "right one" for his ex-wife. Once he literally brought home three different trees before she was satisfied. Besides, he's Jewish, so he could cop out on this Christmas tradition. Add to that the fact that I am allergic, and I do mean ALLERGIC, to Christmas trees. Decorating the tree always meant long sleeves, gloves and a great deal of itching. I turned into a "witch" -- or you can substitute your own word. About 20 years ago in frustration, I left Liz with Bill and went down to the local "Big Box" store and bought an artificial tree. If you can believe it, I put up the SAME tree today.

Memory #5:

Christmas 2010
Ian was 2 1/2 years old
Christmas 2010, we moved into a new chapter. Liz and her husband, Roland, blessed us with our first grandson. Bill and I pulled out all of the stops. The tree went up and so did the train we bought for Liz 23 years earlier. Anything to make Ian's Christmas special.

Which brings us to Christmas 2012. Oh, how I dreaded putting up the tree. Fake knees and hips don't lend themselves to this kind of activity. I wanted my Dad to "string the lights" one more time.

I've got a new grandson, Andrew, and I want his first Christmas to be special. So I got myself together and put up the tree -- one more time. I'm thinking this year will be the perfect year for Roland and Ian to help Grandpa put the train up -- I'm sure you would agree.

Merry Christmas 2012 to all of my family and friends. 



  1. Merry Christmas Kathy, your tree is lovely. Andrew and Ian will love it!

    1. Thanks, Carol. You have a merry Christmas, too.

  2. I totally agree. A nice trip down Christmas tree lane here. I just finished putting up my very small tree. My husband and a friend bought it. Everything here is on one floor and the tree is short so no problems there. After it was done I sort of missed the way it looked just plain. And my husband had bought icicles, which are plastic now and stick together and just are even harder to hang than the old ones were. The 5 of my grands who will be here are 9 to 14 now and they won't care how the tree looks really but they would notice if there was no tree.

    1. Kristin,
      I keep saying this will be the last year -- I remember when my mother went to a smaller tree. I couldn't believe it, but soon realized it could be just as nice. Enjoy your five grandchildren -- they are the perfect ages.

  3. Hi Kathy, I love reading your blog posts. Thanks for sharing your memories. I loved it when you hauled that tree up to your balcony! ... I understand better now why it was a struggle to put up your tree. But you're right: the grandsons will LOVE it! You're a good grandmother. :)

  4. Kathy,

    Thanks for sharing makes me feel a little bit better about not having a single decoration up in my house. Not a one. I had to go down into the basement to find wrapping paper for my grand nephews birthday present, looked at all the decorations stored in a variety of boxes, bags, etc. and just sighed. Way more than 5 memories...

    Your family is lucky to have your tenacious self to make the holiday season bright. Have a very, very Merry Christmas.

    1. Thanks Laura and Jenny,
      I'll think of you as I sip on my wine in the glow of the tree. My genealogy buddies totally light up my life. Thanks for being a part of it.

  5. Funny. I don't think of it as love/hate - but there have been years the tree does not get up. There are so many memories, but I think there's some satisfaction in being part of those lovely little boys memories and Christmas pictures. Have a wonderful time with them.

  6. I think I dread putting up the tree because I know what goes up must come down. We are finally transitioning our grown kids to an artificial tree, over much protest. I enjoyed reading your memories, Kathy, and your tree looks beautiful. Enjoy your Christmas with your two little grandsons!

    1. Thanks Susan and Shelley,
      It's been fun reading all of the responses and realizing that many of us seem to have a love/hate relationship with the decorating that goes along with this wonderful time of the year. I wish all of you the best.


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