Catholic Free Press

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Musings while trimming the Christmas tree

Posted By December 22, 2011 | 10:59 am | Commentary

By Bob Cronin

We all acknowledge that the Christmas season is essentially a religious celebration recognizing the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem, but have you ever thought about how it nudges our memories back to Christmases past and to friends and relatives who stood with us around other Christmas trees? A few nights ago I put up my tree for the season, cut the netting around it to let the branches fall out and made the trip to the attic to bring down the ornaments, the tinsel and the lights. Another Christmas had arrived and it was time to get busy.

This would be my second season trimming the tree alone, but it was a job I looked forward to. This holiday season, and especially the tree, was always an enjoyable event when Mary was with us, and it just would not be Christmas without the top of a fir tree scraping the ceiling in the sun porch. I laughed to myself as I put the tree in the stand, thinking back on our first tree. We bought it in the neighborhood and lugged it up to the third floor apartment we had and left it on the back porch.

The Saturday morning we were going to put it up we went to the porch and found that in the couple of days it was there someone had stolen it. The tough part was that instead of paying the usual six dollars or even eight dollars for the tree, we had bought an expensive nine dollar tree and now it was gone. Needless to say we went back, purchased some Charlie Brown relic that was left and that was our first tree. Can you imagine what, if anything, you could buy for six or eight dollars today?

We have always held out for the real trees, There is just something about the aroma of a tree the just makes Christmas and nothing from an aerosol can will ever duplicate it. Many folks enjoy, even make a family festivity, of going out and cutting their own tree in a woodlot. I tried that one time and learned a good lesson. I found one which was bigger than I needed and threw my back out as I tried to get it from the woods to the car. Lesson learned —- go to the people on the corner or the church lot down the street.

Going into the boxes of ornaments is a great resource of recollections. Among the first I put up each year is a small, not all there, Santa Claus. He used to have sort of pipe cleaner legs which he lost many years ago. One of my first recollections of a tree is my father hanging this little fellow up and joking about getting dirty coming down the chimney. He is the real veteran, surviving at least eighty-two outings.

Early in my career I taught in grammar school in Worcester and at this time of the year children would bring in gifts to the teacher, some of which might have little felt ornaments which the students made themselves. There are several of these which still hang on the tree, reminding me of East Kendall St. School, which is no longer there.

One of my favorites, one that gets “front of the tree” treatment is a small house covered in colorful sequins and opens as a box. Mary bought it the year we paid the mortgage and it contains a small copy marked “PAID”. It will always be a reminder of the great times we had and how much that house meant to both of us.

The arrival of a daughter is celebrated in many ways including an ornament of a baby shoe and an angel my mother felt represented the new addition. Her kindergarten strings of twine and cardboard still have their place, although toward the back of the tree. Several Washington D.C. decorations mark her college years and internship and some of the Irish decorations are from her junior year abroad in Dublin. And naturally, Mom and Dad are remembered with ornaments from Our Lady of the Elms College and Holy Cross.

There are innumerable other decorations, each one holding at least one, and some holding many memories, such as the Marine Corps ornaments or ones that we brought back from trips to Ireland or other trips and wanderings. Yes, Christmas is certainly a time for memories

Folks sometimes ask, “Why would you alone bother to put up a tree?”  I guess that my answer would be that if Christmas gives me the opportunity to recollect and a tree brings out the resources to recall those happy times, then bless Christmas trees and their decorations—they make me remember how lucky I have been and how grateful I should be.

If you have a tree, I hope you enjoy yours as much as I do mine. May the joys of this Christmas Season be yours and to all who are dear to you and may you have a healthy and happy New Year. God Bless!