Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. When I was little, we used to go as a family to pick out our Christmas tree. My mom, dad, brother, sister and I would get in the car, around the fifteenth of December and drive to Ventura to the Green Thumb. You could smell the pine as soon as you stepped out of the car. The whole family would stop talking and take a few breaths of Christmas. I ran ahead of everyone, followed by my mother and sister who were just as eager as I. My brother and father would bring up the rear. Joe was just as excited to see the trees, but he would walk slowly by my father’s side. They had about ten trees inside the store that were already decorated and I would get lost in the splendor of your tackiest Christmas fantasy. But to me it was beautiful. They had an all angel tree, with gold ornaments and little white lights. A nutcracker tree full of huge smiles and blue and silver uniforms. I always looked for my favorite, a tree filled with birds, some of which would coo and caw every time you would touch one. I always did, over and over until my mom would come and drag me away, into the other room.
This room had its own splendor. When you walked in the door you saw trees, it seemed like thousands of huge green trees. I walked hand in hand with my mom through the aisles, staring up toward the stars. I was trying to see the top of the trees but I never could. Not until my dad or brother would lift me up and show me that the trees did have tops. Every year, mom looked for the perfect tree. I would follow behind her while she touched every one, making sure of their freshness. Every once in awhile she would stop and make my father drag one out so she could walk around it to check its figure. It must have long branches that would drop down evenly under the weight of our ornaments. A nice top to place the angel figurine that would look down on us Christmas morning. After about an hour she would find one she liked, then she would look at each one of us for agreement. My brother and sister would quickly nod, tired of looking at trees. I would mimic my mother, walk around her tree and then also give my approval. She was always right. My dad was ready with payment and would haul the tree off to the car.
Decorating the tree was always a family event and took all day long. Dad would untangle the strands of lights, making sure each bulb worked. They went on first. My brother and sister would unwind lengths of golden garland. Each small piece of plastic foil would glisten in the colored lights of the tree. My brother, sister and I each had our own box of ornaments that mom had started for us the year we were born. We each received a new ornament every year to add to the box, each one dated with the year. I usually received a horse, rocking horse, carousel horse, gingerbread horse. Horses were my favorite. My brother and sister received something they liked as well. Every year we would open our box of ornaments and lift each one out separately, look at the date we got it, thought about how long ago that seemed, and place it gently on the tree. When we were finished we would all sit on the couch and listen to Christmas music and enjoying the tree. With few variations, we did the same thing every year until my sister and brother went away to college. Then I went away to college and my mom and dad bought the tree and decorated it themselves.
To be continued…