I have fond memories of a season that causes us all so much work and worry as adults, but ironically, they center more on the tree and less on the “loot.” I loved our Old School Christmas tree with its chubby colored bulbs and the battered angel on top, but it took some work to make that happen.
Now about those lights . . . First came “The Great Untangling.” I won’t say much about that—too much grown-up swearing. And it got worse. Do you remember that when one bulb burned out the whole strand went out? So before we’d put the lights on the tree, we’d lay out each string and test it. When the strand didn’t light, my job, as the youngest and most nimble, was to unscrew each bulb till I found the offender and then replace it. Sometimes a bulb would die while its string was on the tree and Mom would perform the same delicate task, trying not to break any ornaments.
After the lights went on, we’d hang those same ornaments we’d used for years, some of which I still have. There were colored balls, many faded, and homemade ornaments, like the one with my picture that I’d made at school.
After the ornaments, it was tinsel time. I’d hang a few strands carefully, then get impatient and throw it on the top branches. At that point, the tree was complete. Not exactly a work of art, but I thought it beautiful.
Then came “tree envy.” I’d compare our less-than-perfect specimen, photographed on my fourth Christmas Eve of 1949, to the prettier ones of our neighbors. The Sampsons, next door, had bubble lights on their tree, which I coveted. Remember those little columns of liquid simmering away, heated and tinted by the colored lights below them?
On the other side of us were the Inman’s, they of the fabulous angel hair. No, I’m not talking about pasta. It was spun fiberglass, arranged artfully around various lights. They looked like little pools of colored fog on the tree. I touched one of the “pools” and quickly realized it really WAS glass.
I hope my parents are happy, knowing all their work is remembered fondly by the kid who always got in the way and can’t remember most of the toys they bought.