Well, yesterday concluded with a large part of the Christmas decorating completed. We got out the gnomes, and Christmas mice in their little sleigh, the crystal angel, the different Christmas prints that replace “normal” art in our home for a while. I especially like the print by Julie Lucich entitled, “Christmas Party.” It’s a landscape that includes a number of reindeer – but they all have a variety of candy cane antlers. Very nice. We filled the crystal bowl that the boys brought back from Prague a couple of years ago, with bright red beaded balls, that reflect the little twinkling lights of the lamp sitting next to it. I sure do love this time of year.
As I mentioned before, we will wait to put up the tree until after our Christmas birthdays, so for now, there is a large open space on one wall of our living room – an unusual sight, since we are prone to filling up most space with furniture or crocks or trunks or such. Still, the space will fill up soon enough by our “fake” tree.
The title of said tree, along with the others that preceded it, was given courtesy of Aaron, our oldest, when he was about six years old. Please note: since Cheri and I had been married in 1981, for fourteen years straight, we had an artificial tree, in part because we would often go visiting at Cheri’s folks after Christmas, and it seemed a bit scary to leave a live tree standing for the better part of a week with no water, and yet, I wasn’t crazy about taking down the tree an hour after we had opened presents on Christmas morning. So, artificial was the way to go. However, when we lived in Fargo before, on the north side, the boy scouts had a tree sales lot set up in the church parking lots adjacent to the parsonage yard, and one year, Aaron asked when we were going to get our tree. I absently mentioned that it was downstairs in a bit zip up bag, and we would pull it out in a few days. Aaron’s mind started putting things together. “How do you keep a tree in a bag?” I explained that it was the artificial tree that we had owned since way before him. Then the righteous ranting began: “Do you mean we don’t have a REAL tree? That we only have a FAKE tree? Fake, fake, fake? That is wrong! We should not have a…” and do it went for a little while, as our Christmas tree activist expressed his constitutional right to protest. It ended with the agreement that someday, when the artificial tree needed to be thrown out, that we would think about getting a “real” tree.
That happened when we moved to the Black Hills in South Dakota. The artificial tree did not make the trip, and so we found ourselves having to find one on a lot. We looked like a typical family in one of those movies. It was dark, and cold and snowy, as we scoured the lot looking for the right tree. We did find one – a real beauty! What I didn’t expect is that I would end up paying as much for the one tree, which had about a three-week life span, as I did for our good old artificial tree that had lasted us a decade and a half. Oh well – we brought it home, along with the new “real tree” stand, and decorated and lit and such. It did look nice.
That is, it looked nice for about four days. Despite our best watering and care, and no heating vents open near the tree, after that short amount of time, it turned from a Christmas green to a “ghost of Christmas future” grey, and the branches holding the ornaments began their rather rapid dropping of needle and collapsing of the branches themselves, so that by the time Christmas Day rolled around, the tree looked more like a nosecone of a rocket, with ornaments trapped inside. I held back on the temptation of taking Aaron by the scruff of the neck and saying, “See! This is why we can’t have a real tree!” I didn’t, but I thought it.
Over the next five years, we had “fun” going out into the hills with our tree permit to find our very own treasure, and to cut it down and bring it home like those Currier and Ives prints would offer. They lie. It takes the old Christmas cheer off the occasion as you have to wander through woods and snow, sometimes over your knees high, to try to find a tree that isn’t wonky, or 45 feet tall. There’s a reason they have tree farms. Trees in the woods look nice because they are surrounded by other trees. When you pull one out of its natural habitat – after you have already cut it down and used up your permit – when you get it to the car, it’s not a pretty sight. At least ours never were. One year we had a tree so big we had to cut it in half to get in through the front door, and the branches were 2-3 feet apart from each other. The next year we decided to get a nice little tree, which turned out to be small enough for me to carry in one hand. We did have a tree, or maybe two, that was fairly alright, but the best thing for the boys is that they got to have cocoa in the back seat of the car that Mommy had brought along, while ol’ Dad tried to figure out how to tie the tree onto the car for the 30 mile drive back home. These are memories, but I can’t quite say they are lovingly cherished ones…
We are now back to artificial trees, although I wish now that I could find one like our first tree, thick, lush, and wonderful looking. But no – most of the ones we have found look more like ones in the wild. We do manage to cover the things with ornaments we have collected, so it’s a nice sight when all is said and done, but it’s hard to fairly compare a current Christmas with the rose-colored memories of Christmas past.
Still – we will have a nice time in a couple of weeks finishing up the decorating, and getting ready for the 12 days before Christmas. I’m trying to be intentional about even how I feel this year. It’s up to us to initiate the joy, and not expect outside forces to en-joy us. It’ll be just fine, fake tree and all…
Word for the Day: racemiferous. Pronounced rass-uh-MIFF-er-us. It’s Latin, of course, with perhaps a touch of Greek, since Latin did borrow some words from that older language, the way a younger sister gets into her big sister’s closet sometimes. The word, racemus, means “cluster,” and the word ferre means “to bear.” So what we have is something that has a cluster or set of branches, usually meaning a racemus of grapes, or a set of flowers, like on a lily of the valley. The grapes you buy in the store are the remnants of racemiferous growth on a grapevine. Just hope they are seedless in their racemiferring. Keep this one in your back pocket – there’s bound to be a time when someone will be serving grapes at a meal, and you can comment on the racemiferous nature of their formation…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.