Even before I had heard of the tree that grew in the Nutcracker story, I knew Christmas trees had a magical quality—especially in the hands of my father. When my mother married my dad in 1941 neither of them had any money to spare for a tall, lush tree. But they were a resourceful couple.
Dad could make a scrawny Christmas tree positively grow like the tree in the Nutcracker Ballet with the use of a drill and a few strategically placed scrap branches. An undernourished tree would be courageously nailed onto a makeshift stand. With drill in hand, Dad would go to work. Forty-five minutes and a few “ding dang its” later, a plump balsam pine would stand proudly in our living room, its scent drifting through our small house, signaling us it was ready to be adorned with well-loved ornaments, strings of colored lights, and the final glittering accessory, icicles or tinsel. Tinsel strands were carefully placed on the tips of branches, dressing The Tree in a cape of silver. Our family ascribed to the “a few strands at a time” method of tinsel placement. Woe to any impulsive child who gave in to the urge to fling a handful of tinsel up towards the top branches. The result in my memory is a softly lit, green-jeweled visitor residing in our home for the Christmas season, lighting and softening the lives of my mother, father, older sister, twin sister, and me.
For twenty-six years my husband, Hank, and I have invited family and friends who love the spirit of Christmas to help us trim the tree. There is always carol singing, Christmas parodies, eating with abandon, and most of all, trimming the tree.
Years that we tinseled, there was variety of tinseling styles—one strand to flingers. Expert tinselers teasingly guided the newer and younger tinselers to “try one strand at a time, draped just so.” We have a dear friend who was the Tinsel King. His style and patience in tinseling was unsurpassed. We’ve had Tinsel Tony Awards and Tinsel Singers. Too much? Over the top? Not at all.
Our collection of ornaments is a parade of memories. Over twenty-eight years of teaching, I was gifted with ornaments like a miniature chalkboard, a clay penguin, wooden sleds and school buses, and tiny books covered with holly. Family ornaments of angels and choirboys made of clothespins during my brother-in-law’s craft era adorn the tree. Sow our Southwest ornaments of boots, cowboy hats, and saddles nestle up next to beaded balls, and miniature roller skates. My sister’s quilted tree skirt surrounds the tree.
The years of our marriage are chronicled on our tree–our First Christmas ornament, a holly-topped Eiffel Tower, a English phone booth, a Park City reindeer, Alaskan reindeer, an Arizona saguaro, a mini-Declaration of Independence. The trimming of the tree takes a few hours of clock time in our house but we are touched by the magic of Christmas for the entire season. May your home be touched with the peace, goodwill, and magic of Christmas.