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Averyt: Trees And Traditions

http://www.vpr.net/audio/programs/56/2012/12/Averyt-1212.mp3

(Host)We all have our favorite traditions at holiday time. For poet and commentator Anne Averyt's mother, nothing made the season more special than the holiday tree.

(Averyt) My mother wasn't German but her signature Christmas carol could have been O Tannenbaum. Decorating the Christmas tree was one of the holiday traditions she most enjoyed. Two weeks before Christmas, with a troupe of us kids in tow, my mother would walk the three blocks to our local elementary school tree lot where she would barter for the ideal tree - in her mind that could only be a perfectly conical Scotch pine. Then, with my sister hoisting the front end and me dragging the trunk, we kids would carry the tree home in an evergreen Christmas parade.

Once we had it in the living room, the challenge of stabilizing the tree in its stand was a feat of civil engineering, while stringing the lights was a test of patience and wits.Half a century ago, the fat multi-colored light bulbs could be unscrewed and rearranged - which my mother did obsessively, making sure no two identically colored bulbs ever nestled too closely together. The desired effect was a perfectly random look that was anything but random.

Next came the hanging of the ornaments. The assorted ornament collection was a timeline of kids and school projects - the kindergarten popsicle sleds, the second grade baked dough candy canes, the pipe cleaner stars and third grade intricately painted stained glass angels. We kids finally had our turn hanging the Christmas balls, but my mother was right behind us to rearrange any clashing color schemes.

Those trees of childhood still live in my mind's eye, monuments to my larger than life memory of Christmases past. Somehow it just doesn't seem like Christmas without a tree. Yet, here I am in mid-December, fir-less, pine-less, tree-less.

I now celebrate Christmas day in a distant city with my children and a grandchild, so having a real tree doesn't seem to make much sense. I light up the house in December with candles and decorate with vintage holiday ornaments, but I miss the center of attention - the tree. Life of course is simpler without a Christmas tree- nothing demanding to be watered, no cascading needles to be swept up or brittle branches to drag curbside in early January.

I know not having a Christmas tree is most sensible - but sensible really isn't what Christmas is about. To me Christmas is about childhood magic - a red-suited phantom, reindeer that fly and a live tree spreading its branches in the middle of the house. So next year, even though I travel afar, I think I'll decorate a Christmas tree and let the sight and scent rekindle the warm glow of memory. Like my mother, I'll celebrate the joy of the season in pine green and with the carolers recite the old refrain, O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, your branches green delight us.
 

Free lance writer, Anne Averyt, lives in South Burlington, with her cat Sam and as many flowers as possible.
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