A $100 Christmas tree
"It’s tackier than all get out, but we figure it’s a tree that will reimburse us $100 after everything’s said and done."
My mother’s Christmas tree is a glorious, sparkling lesson of family history. Mine, however, is far from it. In fact, I’m wondering if it’s a skosh offensive.
Please know I unashamedly love, love, love the holiday season — broadly, that stretch from mid-October through Thanksgiving and all the way to Epiphany, when it’s time to start thinking about king cakes and Mardi Gras beads. More specifically, I love Christmas above any other time, and part of that has to do with putting up a tree.
I can’t remember how old my husky jeans-wearing self was when Mom started letting me help her put ornaments on the tree, but I had to have been 5, if not younger. We were living in Tampa, Florida, and I vaguely recall tinseling the tree. I also might have been wearing shorts, cowboy boots and an Alabama Crimson Tide T-shirt. I say “vaguely” and “might have” because I’ve apparently reached the age where my mind occasionally scrapbooks together this bit and that of various childhood photos and … Well, let’s just say I’m probably one or two birthdays from fondly remembering a Christmas involving bottle rockets, watermelon, baskets of chocolate rabbits and turkey and dressing. Mmm ... That’s not a bad memory, actually.
Anyway, I helped Mom decorate the tree until I moved to Tulsa — and I’ve helped a few times since, when I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Mississippi for Thanksgiving. Over the years, I learned wonderful things about my family through those ornaments, like the lace bootie Mom wore as a baby in 1946, the felt-covered cardboard Santa boot someone gave her when my brother was born Dec. 21, 1969, the brown-painted clothespin reindeer I made in first grade in … Oh, I don’t know, almost 1990. OK, fine, 1981.
With myriad memories represented from five generations, Mom’s tree takes two people a few hours to put together, and she does it every year — usually by herself, because Dad’s watching football. My tree, however, might take 45 minutes, max.
For those not in the know, my roomie, Lord V, isn’t fond of Christmas. But for whatever odd reason, he’s game for letting me put up a tree, and we started debating decorating ideas back in late September. After contemplating decorations based on color schemes (like “Blue Christmas”) or themes (like the musical “Cats” — because one of our four fur babies will be all up in the dang tree throughout the holidays, and we probably wouldn’t even need ornaments), we eventually settled on — Father Christmas, forgive me — “Dollar Tree,” complete with 1,000 green and/or gold lights and up to 100 $1 bills made into accordion bows.
Yes, ma’am, it’s tackier than all get out, but we figure it’s a tree that will reimburse us $100 after everything’s said and done. Would you believe the “Dollar Tree” is an artistic expression of my disdain for yuletide hyper-consumerism and how it’s overshadowing the true meaning of Christmas? Yeah, I’m aware it’s still tacky.
Plus, it lacks a story like Mom’s tree. It’s not like my nephew, T, can come over and ask, “Uncle Jason, what’s the story behind this one?” Because I’d have to go, “Well, T, I’ve read that 90 percent of all American dollar bills have traces of cocaine on them, so we can probably make up our own stories. Ho, ho, ho!”
Obviously, I need to start accruing actual ornaments — or making them. I made some plaster of Paris ornaments in some old Christmas cookie tins in sixth grade and gave them as presents. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mom still has a few of those. Maybe I could make a small batch each year, mark the date on the back and ... I’ve already lost interest in this. The “Cats” tree is looking more appealing by the second.
Besides, nothing will ever be as gorgeous to me as Mom’s tree. Maybe I’ll make something for her this year or find a frame ornament and put a photo of me when I was little in my husky jeans, boots, holding a turkey and launching bottle rockets from a watermelon. Or maybe I’ll just get her something pretty from Miss