A Tree in the Night (tf)

Raise your hand if you think that the speech Linus gave about the true meaning of Christmas is one of the great oratories of our time. Don’t be shy.

I knew it.

Well, you’re not alone. Linus may have some major abandonment issues (that blanket?….these days they’d have the poor kid drugged up to his eyeballs), but he’s as eloquent as a fine piece of Waterford Crystal. In about a minute and a half he nails the season for all time. And every year, with our “black friday’s” and the toy de-jour that we’d elbow a nun in the windpipe to be first to get to we do our best to pervert the kid’s words beyond all recognition.

But there are moments when we get it right. Moments when we take something that looks like Charlie Brown’s decrepit tree and turn it into something worthy of the forest. I still believe that Christmas turns a miserable person into someone a bit less miserable. I believe it turns a good person into someone even better. I believe it’s the one time of year when the guy you just cut off in traffic keeps his white knuckles on the wheel instead of extending his middle digit in your direction. I don’t believe in miracles mind you, but the season surely seems to fray the edges.

But it all starts with the tree.

Christmas without a tree is like Oreo’s without the middle.

My Dad would take us. I can’t remember where he used to go but it was pretty far away. He always choose the coldest day of the year too. I think he did this on purpose to test our commitment to the season. His never wavered and he didn’t want ours too either. And Pop was old school so he’d bring his own ax. One of those hammer-sized jobs. He’d let me and my brother take a few swings. He was strong. We never drew bark.

Deep into some primordial forest we’d go, often with snow deeper than our shins, and he’d inspect every tree. When I couldn’t feel my toes anymore all the trees started to look the same. But my Dad was oblivious to the elements. His tree was in his mind, and we’d wander until he found it. And he always did. He’d hack it down, barter some with the guy out front like the father in “A Christmas Story”, and tie it to the top of the station wagon with clothesline. Me and my brother would always say the same thing. “Um…Dad. Mom is gonna say it’s too big.” It sure seemed big. You could see the tip hanging over the roof. But he’d ignore us. He surely knew her better than we did. He could handle that part.

So we’d get home and my Mom would see him pulling it off the roof and standing it up in the garage and she’d be horrified, convinced from her vantage point in the window that it was 18 feet tall. But he’d drag it in the front door and set it in the stand and somehow, it always seemed to be just right.

And he’d decorate it. We helped some but he loved it so much he didn’t notice that we were taking longer and longer breaks. But it was hard not to at least watch. He was a master craftsman. When it was complete, it’d be dark outside. He’d hit the switch and we’d go outside to see it through the front window. Just a quick peek because it was cold and we weren’t wearing jackets.

It was always perfect.

My Dad passed away in the spring. This is our first Christmas without him. We set up the tree at my Mom’s. But it just doesn’t look as good.

Merry Christmas Pop. Sorry if it’s crooked.

–Tom Flannery

~ by admin on December 20, 2010.

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