December 2004/January 2005
Tannenbaum By Ada Grier
At home on our
prairie farm, we always had a real evergreen
tree inside the house for Christmas.
Our German mother insisted upon this
luxury. As soon as they arrived at our
country store, she sent one of my brothers
out with the truck, to bring one home.
Setting our tree up in the music room,
we strung coloured lights around it
and added the few baubles we had saved
over the years. Boughs were tucked up
around the pictures on the walls and
the smell of pine was wonderful.
It was the tree lights that dazzled
our mother. Each evening she would plug
in the lights and sit for a spell
in the darkness admiring the tree. This
went on all through the holidays and
sometimes I sat beside her just to savour
the moment and the warmth of her smile.
Throughout January she kept her nightly
vigil with the tree and sometimes on
into February. Slowly more and more
needles dropped off till only spindly,
rust-coloured boughs were left to hold
up the lights and only then with sadness
did she reluctantly throw it out. The
same thing happened every year.
When I moved away from home into nurses
residence, the student nurses were enlisted
to help decorate a huge tree by the
fireplace. The tree twinkled amid antique
ornaments and ropes of silvery tinsel.
A Christmas tea was served and we were
coaxed to circulate about the room,
cup balanced carefully on saucer making
light conversation. One of our classmates
quietly played holiday music on the
piano as we learned social skills befitting
our profession. This was nice
and all but it sure wasnt
The years rolled by and I found myself
married with a young son, living in
Montreal. Along Ste. Catherines
the Christmas trees were opulent, a
far cry from our simple prairie tree.
My young son Johnny watched as a shopkeeper
decorated his tree with wide ribbon,
big fans and huge ornaments until the
tree was completely covered. Pleased
that my son was happily occupied I accomplished
a fair bit of shopping but as I walked
back to collect him I heard Johnny loudly
proclaim, Dont you think
its a little bit overkill!
It was one of those Dennis the
Menace moments that brought such
a scowl from the shopkeeper that my
son sucked in his breathe and slipped
out the door ahead of me.
Several Christmas-times later in Kingston,
Ontario, now with two sons, my hubbie
decided we would go out and cut down
our own tree. This special tree was
hauled home over snow-covered roads
on the top of our old station wagon.
It was a new experience for me and I
decided right there and then, it would
be our best tree ever.
We spent many evenings stringing garlands
of popcorn. Small red apples were polished
and tied on with ribbons amid the candle
lights. Our two year old Jesse, with
long blond curls, helped hang gingerbread
men over the branches. In his excitement
he ran into a cupboard door and bumped
his eye which took on some strange colours.
After Jesse quieted down and fell asleep,
friend hubbie placed our presents as
well as a spring ridem horse beside
the tree for Jesse to find in the morning.
Together, with our oldest son we admired
the tree wed worked so hard to
Morning came early and I heard little
feet padding downstairs, then squeals
of excitement. Sneaking down for a glimpse,
we hooted in laughter for there beside
the tree was our two-year-old with not
a stitch of clothes on, riding his spring-horse,
wild with happiness, blond curls flying
and a huge black eye! He was deliriously
happy, not the least concerned with
his eye or anything else....
I scurried for my camera and there in
the background for us, still today is
that beautiful tree with its garlands
of popcorn, a special Christmas memory.
Some years later we moved to Vancouver.
It was here that we purchased our first
Christmas tree, alive and growing in
a pot. In keeping with the nature theme,
we decorated it with twinkle lights,
pine cones, and clusters of red holly
berries. Our boys, admiring its simplicity,
dubbed it the twinkle tree.
With the holiday season over we planted
it in our yard.
Today, it has grown tall and lovely.
Although we have long since moved from
that house, each Christmas we drive
back to spread shiny, silver icicles
over its massive branches. Sunlight
catches the icicles as they move in
the breeze and as we leave, our twinkle
tree sparkles all over again.
0 tannenbaum, omaker of
Christmas memories, there is something
magical about you.