The traditions of my childhood were like many others growing up in the 70’s, although there is one element that I recall to be quite different from that found in the homes of my friends.
Our Christmas tree came by airmail.
How might that happen you ask? Did Santa send special deliveries to extra good children? Did Amazon sell trees online back then? Did the Brooks family have an organic eco-farming operation outside of College Station? Hardly so.
Around the time when we would be sending our letters north to the infamous Mister Claus, another division of Claus Enterprise would send something south to us, in the form a very small but yes, very fresh Maine spruce.
When we would open the three-foot box each year, the smell would spill out first. It was the real deal. So were the dirt and needles that would inevitably make a mess on the carpet as my dad would carefully pull the cooped up tree out of the box. I’m sure my mother would cringe at all of the dirt to clean up, but not for long, for once the tree was upright in its base and relaxed back into its natural form, all was right in the world, at least for the moment.
The rest of the story about our Christmas tradition would sound more or less familiar to you : decorations, carols, popcorn and cranberry strings, church services, cookies, letters to Santa, stockings, fights with my sister, movies about Frosty and Rudolf, uncomfortable ruffled neck things, and long road trips to grandparents (over the interstate and through the woods). My favorite sight on Christmas morning (other than the abundance of nifty presents that appeared out of nowhere) was the messy cookie crumb evidence which always came with a bizarre note about broken sleigh runners and peculiar reindeer injuries sustained from crash landings on I-95. The Santa I knew was a decent stand-up comedian.
The magic of Christmas, as it is called, felt pretty real for a ten year old. My sister and I spent every Christmas Eve looking out the window, standing up on my grandparent’s sofa bed, wondering if it all was true and listening for the hooves.
What I know to be true today, about Christmas and about other things, is perhaps a little different than what I thought to be true back then.
Clearly, when looking back at such matters, we must admit that one can’t be a grown up until one is in fact grown up. I’m not saying at all that I am a grown up or have grown up but I do know that I am more grown up today than I was back then. It goes without saying that a ten year old and a forty-four year old have a different level of experience that can only be accomplished through the hard and messy work of life, including dirt and needles that fall out of the box all the time.
In terms of Christmas tradition, I have certainly moved my center of gravity, or perhaps more aptly put, my center of gravity has been moved. I still love Christmas trees, although I’m not very particular about type and how they arrive. Down here in Mexico, the spruce options are limited, the quality is dodgy and Claus Enterprise (Maine division) delivery costs are exorbitant.
Back then, what I knew to be true was that Christmas could arrive in a three-foot box.
Today, what I am discovering to be true is that Christmas did in fact arrive in a box, perhaps about the same length, but of a slightly different type.
“And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12