This is our 5th Christmas here this year. I remember the first one and how difficult it was to find a tree – now everyone is selling them (perhaps we started something). Anyway, this year I was having a bit of difficulty with the tree because it has a very thick trunk. It broke the only stand I have and fell over a few times. I was starting to get frustrated and was reaching for the chain saw – when I regained consciousness…(for all you Air Farce fans out there).
It reminded me of the a speech I wrote for a Christmas celebration at my sister’s house in Whitby, Ontario. I wrote it for the last Christmas we celebrated in Canada just having bought this house and not having told anybody yet. I would like to share that speech with you now – I hope you enjoy it.
A few weeks ago, Andrew asked me if he could have his own tree for his room – the look on his face when I agreed was priceless – the look on the tree merchant on the corner when he realized I was buying two, at full price, was priceless. Actually paying for them, well, there’s mastercard…
I was sitting on the couch, admiring our just finished tree and sighing a big sigh of relief and wondered when decorating the tree once a year had become like a chore rather than an event…I started to wonder about Christmas’s past and realized that this was my 48th tree…
I came up with a question and the idea that perhaps I would share these words with all of you here tonight – Do you remember all the Christmas trees you have decorated and gathered around.
In my life there have been trees in Grand Valley, Ridgeville, Fort Erie, Owen Sound, Bailieborough, Garden Hill, Mississauga, Bowmanville, Port Hope, Toronto and Penetang/Midland. I assure you that I can’t remember them all.
It was this thought that made me feel a little sad and I started to try and recall the past years and the trees in it.
I can sort of recall very misty images of the first trees in my life – but very misty – I don’t even really remember how the trees got to the house. I’m sure we must have gone with Mom and Dad somewhere to cut them or atleast to buy them. I can’t really remember if we helped decorate them or not. However, some of the things I received from under those trees still stick in my memory – like socks, underwear and pyjamas…
I started to remember the Christmas’s with the people who are here only in spirit with us now. Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Fort Erie and how special it always felt when we did the traditional German Christmas the night before at Oma and Opa’s house. I can’t remember them specifically, but the feeling of the memory is cheerful. I’m sure every single tree in either house was beautiful.
I recalled a few of the Christmas’s in Penetang with Gerry and how magical it was to be in a winter wonderland with my three children and my love, Elizabeth. Gerry worked at providing the tree in those days, I really can’t remember who decorated it, but the thoughts of being there and the mound of wrapped gifts in the morning under it bring warmth to my heart.
I searched in the dark corners of my memory to a time when the word “Christmas” cost me $500 everytime it was mentioned. You’d think that that experience would make one hate Christmas and just wish it would go away, but it left me with a very unique perspective. I realized that it wasn’t necessarily important to see my children ON Christmas as long as I could see them AT Christmas. These thoughts lead me to a happier time afterwards when the trek was made North, arriving late in the night, decorating a tree, wrapping gifts and somehow managing a few minutes of shut eye before the kids awoke to a full tree. I remembered my first experience of Elizabeth’s idea of a stocking – how stuffed they were, the eyes of the kids in the morning being almost “Marty Feldman” like.
The thoughts of the North and the snow we enjoyed at that time lead me back to my youth. Memory of the trees in Bailieborough are somewhat non-existent but I know we must have had a tree or two and that it came from somewhere. I do know that snow in Bailieboro and Garden Hill always meant we could go tobogganing during the day after the gifts had been exchanged and the church service was over. Just the other day Mom reminded me of the one winter in Bailieboro when the snow had “corned” and we were riding our bikes on it. It reminded me also of the year we tobogganed off the roof o f the Volkswagen. If this was at Christmas, I am not sure, but the memory is there and perhaps if I really searched, all of the trees in Bailieboro and Garden Hill would come back to me in vivid detail.
I then recalled how nice it was to have ten foot ceilings and the farm we went to out near Newtonville to cut a tree for the house in Port Hope. How much fun it was with the kids and Pandora, to run between the trees and how frosted our cheeks were coming home. How it was fun to string lights and hang all the little ornaments, each year a few new ones. I almost felt kinda sad to leave to go North, but catching on to Elizabeth’s enthusiasm for the 12 days of Christmas it was always nice to come home to a decorated tree and celebrate a little longer the season of Christmas. This reminded me of one particular council meeting when I moved a motion to extend the tree chipping because not everyone threw their tree out on the 26th. I also remembered one particular year I think that between the shop, the house, Mom’s house and the cottage I cut and helped decorate 6 trees.
These thoughts, trying to recall every Christmas, made me realize that regardless of how I felt about getting the tree or dealing with a “dud” string of lights or scratching the ceiling again, once finished and gazing upon a decorated tree all sense of drudgery was gone and that the “chore” had become a reward – I could not fathom Christmas without a tree – the fresh scent, the warm glow at night and especially the excitement of the kids as they danced around it.
So, to answer my own question – do I remember all the Christmas trees I have decorated – No I don’t, but I do know this – What is important is the tree you are around at the moment – the memories are there, the feelings are there – this tree here tonight with a lot of the people I love and who are important to me – this is an accumulating memory that will build on the years past and become part of the foundation for the years to come – Merry Christmas to everyone – Cheers