My mother’s family never had a Christmas tree. Momma would tell me about how she used to see them in the stores in town and that she often wished for one. Her first tree was the year she got married, 1947. She told me that one day Daddy came home from the store with some boxes of store bought glass bells and balls, aluminum roping, tinsel and a star. He then went out and cut her very first Christmas tree, a little one, around two feet tall. Daddy nailed it to a wooden stand and it sit proudly on the sewing machine.
Throughout my lifetime, we’ve had our fair share of less than perfect Christmas trees. Daddy would very often just go out and cut the top of a White Pine or find a small one and cut it. He went as far as cutting a tree that had a perfect top, a perfect bottom but the middle left a lot to be desired. His remedy for the middle part was to simply cut it out, and take the top and bottom and duct tape them together! Once all the decorations were on it, you couldn’t tell it was pieced together. For as far as I can remember, until my mother passed away, my parents always used the same star as our tree topper. Once my sister made a beautiful garland out of chewing gum paper. We always had lots of tinsel on our tree and although it never had lights, it sparked and shined in the light. Our little White Pine home grown Christmas tree was always beautiful. I think the first trimmed up Frasier tree they bought was when I was in high school.
In years past, women of our mountains made decorations for the tree. One thing they did was string buttons together to go around the tree. Sometimes they strung cranberries and popcorn. Bird nests adorned the tree, along with sugar cookies shaped like little men. Pieces of colorful fabric were tied together to make a garland for the tree. The trees were beautiful with colored paper rings pieced together. Sometimes for the top, a homemade doll was used or a cardboard star, sometimes covered with foil.
My parents never had a lot growing up, and Christmas was sparse as well. As children, my parents were like most of the other children in the community, eagerly awaiting “Ole Santy”. Waking up on Christmas morning they found a sock with apples and a few oranges, a peppermint stick and if they were really good, a couple of pieces of chocolate drops. Rarely did they get a toy. They always tried to be the first to yell “Christmas Gift” when they woke up.
One thing in particular that my mother got for Christmas when she was a little girl was a baby doll. I don’t recall how old she was when she got it, but she and her sister Lillie both got one from Santa. She told me that both of them played all Christmas day with their dolls. However, their mother, being conservative and saving, told the girls that after Christmas day they needed to put the dolls up in the attic, and just get them out on special days. She was concerned with them saving them, not playing with them. Well the girls did, but a month or so later when they went up to the attic to get the dolls down to play with, they found the dolls ruined. Mice had gotten to them and ate at them, pulling the stuffing out and messing up the dolls’ hair. They had to be thrown away.
I recall how blessed I was when I was a child, even though we didn’t have much either, I did have dolls and tea sets and games to play with. My mom always told me to play with them until they wore out.
We take for granted all the things we have now. We go black Friday shopping so our children can have the very best and newest game controller, TV set or phone. Nothing wrong with that, but this Christmas, lets all resolve so slow down and remember our past and how far we’ve come. How about putting a homemade ornament on our tree?