Friday, December 19, 2014
Oh! Christmas Tree! Whereforth Art Thou Christmas Tree?
This is not our tree. This is not our living room. This pretty tree appears momentarily in a free ad in our local Craigslist. Free listings like pine needles expire quickly.
One of my favorite heirlooms is a silvery aluminum table top tree from a great aunt and great uncle. It was a treat to visit their bungalow, feeling enveloped in their pink and black tiled kitchen and coordinating bathroom, their sun porch housed a collection of pinned butterflies under glass. Their home was a time capsule of the 1940 and 1950s in the 1960s when I was a little girl. I was fascinated, the only other kind of butterflies I had seen were the live ones that landed softly on me in the prairie grasses in countryside around St. Charles.
Where is that countryside now? Buried under concrete, asphalt, and malls. One statistic states that only 1/100 of 1 percent of the original prairie and oak savanna exist, that's like one penny out of 100 dollars. Mostly around railroad tracks and desolate Illinois cemeteries. Where are the butterflies? In my memory, and hopefully in the fringes. My aunt and uncle also live on in my memories. Also their nippy chihuahua, he does not rest so quietly. An annoyed and vengeful neighbor of my uncle's poisoned his dog in retribution for dog droppings in the alley.
As for the tree is with us, quietly waiting in a large box, waiting for it's moment to shine. The silver branches push into a wooden pole with drilled angled holes. The stand is padded with paper to hold the thin stalk upright. Shiny deep blue and green balls sparkle, a rotating color wheel, prone to overheating, a gift from a coworker, shines up glowingly, alternately blue, green red.
My dear, unsentimental children sadly regard this little tree as second rate. They request a live tree. Stubbornly, I am loathe to purchase one. I silently begrudged the salesperson in the hardware store parking lot the $35 my husband paid one year. Since then we freecycled one away from a professor who was getting ready to travel home Christmas week, one Craigslist free section posting of freshly cut one in a nearby alley (it was inaccurately advertised as 10-feet tall, which probably discouraged others from investigating), one I dragged home a block or 2 a day or 2 before Christmas Eve sliding the bottom over a slippery layer of snow. It still had a personalized ornament dangling from its branches, ie, Joseph and Mary 2014, a clay couple holding hands. My husband recut the bottom, and it was fragrant and beautiful 'til I took it down after 3 Kings' Holiday.
Clement is "willing" to "compromise" with an artificial green tree, but I'll take a walk around again in our "urban forest" this weekend to see if any neighbors are divesting themselves of their trees early. I'll give a secondhand tree a second home and a place in our memories.
Addendum: Success! Midday walk to drop off coffee ground to community garden and finch food to their spot, found 3 bouquets worth of protea, hydrangea, palm fronds, purple liantris, and the highly sought after live Christmas tree, thank you neighbors ;-)