I remember from Christmas past the decorating of our family tree. My Mom would be in the kitchen baking cookies and making gravy (for you non-Italians that's sauce for ravioli, lasagna or spaghetti!). My Dad and my siblings and I would be in the living room decorating the tree. When we were too little to really help much I can remember my Dad making the tree look just right, even to the point of moving tinsel around so that it didn't look too clumpy.
As we got older, though, things changed. My Dad would set up the tree and get the lights wrapped on it. Then he would sit in his recliner and direct the decorating of the tree. He'd point out the spots that needed more decorations and we'd do his bidding. At the age of 13 I decided it was time to join my Mom in the kitchen and bake cookies. So my siblings continued to decorate the tree with Dad while I fled to the kitchen to spend time with Mom.
After we had all moved out my Dad took over decorating the tree alone again. One particular Christmas tree is very memorable, not for its beauty, but I'll get to that. Dad, being the engineer he was just had to have everything just right. He decided to take the garland and drape it on the tree so that there were diamond shaped boxes all over the tree. In each diamond shape box an ornament was hung.
I can say without doubt that this was the ugliest Christmas tree any of us had seen, but all Dad could see was the symmetry. When I had finished looking at the tree I went out where my Mom was again baking cookies. I sat down and asked her why she never decorated the tree and spent her time baking cookies (I might also add that when I was younger and helped her bake cookies I was allowed to cut them out but she decorated them).
She told me that there are just some things that a husband and wife are not meant to do together and in their household that thing was decorating the tree. When they were first married they had a Christmas tree decorated in silver and blue ornaments and it was beautiful. The next year they had their first child (me) and my Dad insisted on bringing some bright color to the tree. From that point forward the Christmas tree became my Dad's domain and my Mom channeled her creativity into other things (matching Mom and daughter dresses come to mind as well as Mom designing the programs for the local hospital auxiliary ball and of course baking cookies).
A few years later I married my DH. I thought he was about as different from my Dad as night and day. But then Christmas came. My artificial tree was found lacking so off we went to K-Mart to buy a new tree. Lo and behold K-Mart had a blue light special on Christmas trees while we were in the store so we bought a new tree. The lights were wrapped around each branch so that the wires didn't show. Newly purchased ornaments were hung on the tree (DH is colorblind so ornaments with their varying textures catch his eye more than Christmas balls). It was our first Christmas tree together and while it wasn't necessarily to my taste it was pretty.
As time went on and we moved to a two family house, Christmas decorating took on a new life. Lights were purchased. Each year (we've been married 25 years) we take a trip to Fountains of Wayne in Wayne, NJ to buy another piece for our Christmas display. When we purchased our home 20 years ago, we went all out and are now the proud owners of a full size nativity set (minus the camel that someone stole), Rudolph and 8 other matched reindeer pulling a Santa sled (of course the deer are attached to our deck to look like they are actually lifting off the ground), a North Pole sign, a snowman, two penguins and candy canes.
We've run the gamut of live versus artificial tree from year to year. Since our daughters were born we've had more live trees than artificial. Real trees bear the weight of our tree climbing cats far better than our artificial tree (the tree has a wire wrapped around the trunk and is hooked to two eye loops in the wall).
So what was I doing while DH and our daughters were decorating the tree? Yes you guessed it. I was out in the kitchen making Christmas cookies. I've relinquished my tree duty to my daughters. I have to say that while I thought I was marrying a man completely different from my Dad I did just the opposite. DH is just as obsessed with decorating the house and tree correctly as my Dad was. And somehow there is a lot of comfort in that.
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