Cardie in December - The Tree
Cardie and the Christmas trees. There is a lot of history there.
I mentioned in a previous post, after coming home from Thanksgiving in Orient, we would tromp around tree farms to look for the center piece of our living room during Christmas time. We held this tradition for a few years into our time in Oregon too.
We would get all dressed up in our winter duds and head out to stroll the rows and rows of trees. My mom and aunt were patient. While they requested a certain type of tree (i.e. Douglas or Fraser) I obsessed over the look of the tree.
"No, there's a bald spot. That won't do."
"It's got a funky branch."
"Too bottom heavy."
"Too top heavy."
Sometimes I even requested a trip to a different tree farm to see if we could browse a few more hundred options. Kids. Some are tedious. I was no Charlie Brown.
Once I found "the one" we would locate the helper to have it tagged and cut down. While we waited for it to be tied up, Aunt Cardie would always walk over to the tent area that prepared trees for flocking. Every year she would ask and every year we scrunched our noses at it. I wanted the traditional dark green tree and I think my mom was afraid our dogs and cat would eat it - plus I don't think she liked the fake aspect. Cardie would shuffle and grumble.
At home, we would pull boxes of tangled lights and fragile ornaments from the basement. While I started the untangling process, my mom and aunt would get the stand ready and the tree into the base. Hoisting the tree into its stand was always comical - because I wasn't strong enough - I got a nice view of my mom and aunt wrestling the tree. Once in the stand, my aunt would stand back while my mom lay on her belly turning the tree until Aunt Cardie was satisfied with the placement.
"A little to the left. No right. Okay, back just a hair to the left."
My mom with needles in her hair and sap on her hands started to get irritated and Aunt Cardie made one last request and then we screwed the base into the tree.
Each year, while untangling strands of lights, we would promise that next year we would organize all of the lights so we wouldn't have to do this each time. Ha! That never happened. I think one year we got plastic rectangles designed for organizing Christmas tree lights but the lights still inevitably got tangled.
Aunt Cardie was the light putter upper. I kind of imagined starting at the bottom and winding them around in a row up the tree until the whole thing was lit. Nope. Not Aunt Cardie. The process took her a good hour. She shoved and adjusted and pushed the lights deep inside the tree. She believed it made the tree more beautiful and created a better foundation for the ornaments. Okay, she was right. But dang, it was a long process. And when you are supposed to be feeding her the lights, you'd have to untangle 10 times the lights because she used so many more.
After the lighting process was done, we each helped with the ornaments. Again, this is where you could see all of our personalities come out. I wanted to pick the prettiest ones and just fling them on the tree. My mom worked the fastest and was the most efficient. My aunt on the other hand pondered and mused over the placement of each ornament. Often, she would come back through and change locations of ornaments we already placed. Similar ornaments were not to be close together and no single decoration was simply thrown on any branch. She often stuck her hand deep in the tree and put ornaments way in the back. Sometimes she would still be puttering around the tree while my mom and I listened to music and sipped bourbon and egg nog respectively.
A few years into our time in Oregon, Aunt Cardie suggested we take the leap and stop buying real trees and instead get an artificial one.
I couldn't believe it. An artificial crummy tree looked well, FAKE, and it didn't smell delicious and full of the holiday spirit. Aunt Cardie mentioned a few points in favor of an artificial tree:
1. We wouldn't have to water it and often that was a huge hassle.
2. No needles. No mess.
3. The tree would always look great and the lights would already be on it.
4. The smell of a real tree was nice but it only lasted for a week.
5. Artificial trees have improved and look a lot more real than older versions.
We agreed to go look and then make a decision after. I felt about real trees the same way she felt about flocking. I grumbled all the way to the store.
But lo and behold, they were actually pretty impressive. No weird spots. No dead limbs. No frame issues. And to come already lit? Well, that pretty much sold me upon arrival.
We had our first artificial tree for a few years and then the stand broke or the lights went out so a new one had to be bought. Except, I was at college and my mom was on a business trip. So Aunt Cardie to it upon herself to take care of this task. I received a call from her while walking back from class saying she bought a new tree. Okay great, I thought, that's nice. But then she hemmed and hawed. Well, actually, the tree was a bit shorter than she expected and...it was flocked. And the lights flashed.
I was completely fine about the flocking and the tree size - I was more worried about my college classes - but knew she was actually looking for support when she brought this up to my mom. My mom and I are more traditionalists and we don't like to stray from what we like. But this was Aunt Cardie's moment, an opportunity for her to show us how beautiful and fun a different tree could be. I got the message and immediately hung up with my aunt and called my mom. I didn't tell my aunt I was going to do this but before my aunt could call her, I wanted to prepare my mom. Families are funny aren't they?
There was silence on the phone as I told my mom and I could tell she was hoping the tree wasn't already unpacked with the receipt thrown away. And flashing lights? I am a 9 on the Enneagram scale (if you don't know what that is, look it up - it will explain a lot!) which means that I am a peacemaker. So, I sold my mom on this never before seen tree just so that we could keep everybody calm and happy. Fortunately for Aunt Cardie, the tree lived up to its hype and we've had it ever since.
It even made the trip from Oregon to Tennessee. This year, even if we weren't in the RV, I don't think I'd want to put it up. It would be too unreal without my aunt but we grabbed a handful of ornaments to decorate a string of garland that we will put above the TV.
Just a new normal I suppose.
I know this post is a little premature considering it isn't December yet but I have 3 or 4 more installations of Cardie in December so I gotta get them rolling. Stay tuned.