I have been enjoying the posts for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, but didn’t intend to participate.  I was talking to Pat about it, saying that my memories of recent events didn’t seem like real genealogy to me.  Pat said,  “You love reading old letters and diaries of your relatives.  Don’t you think your great-great-grandkids might feel the same way?”  Hmm…. yes.   If enough generations pass it is possible these stories might not be greeted with a chorus of, “Oh no, not that one again.” So, here on Day 13 is my effort for Day 1–the Christmas Tree.

Being Jewish I came to the Christmas tree rather late in life.  After we blended our lives, N and I decided to blend our traditions as well.  His family had Christmas trees, so we would have one too.  I realize that some readers see the Christmas tree as an element of their Christian faith and may be offended by our secular rendition.  It is not my intention to offend anyone; I merely want to tell our family story.

N grew up in the Pacific Northwest on a large piece of wooded land.  Every Christmas he went out and hacked down some scrawny evergreen, brought it into the house, his family decorated it and celebrated.  It was simple, everyone was happy. I really should have made note of the simple and happy part, but no, if I was going to do this I was going to throw myself into it.

So we got a living Christmas tree.  Why should we go out and murder some poor little tree when we could have a living thing to be cherished forever? The fact that we lived in a tiny four room World War II surplus apartment did not deter me. We went to a nursery and picked out a small pine with an enormous root ball wrapped in burlap.  Somehow we carted the tree home.  Then we found a metal tub large enough to hold the tree.  N mentioned many times, mostly when he was trying to move the surprisingly heavy and awkward tree into the house, that bringing a tree into the warm house and then taking it out and planting it meant certain death for the tree. In it came and was deposited in its tub filled with water.

The tree people had suggested that we keep the house as cool as possible while we had the tree inside; no problem, we couldn’t afford to heat the place anyway.  We decorated the little guy and he looked great.  There was some grumbling about it being colder inside than it was outside, but we were nurturing a living thing.

Perhaps we should have examined that old tub more closely. The tub leaked.  When we woke up in the morning many gallons of water were soaked into our living room rug and through to what passed for flooring.  I have blocked from my memory removing the tree and rug and trying to dry the flooring with a hair drier.  N seems to remember these bits quite well.

So you are no doubt thinking, the little tree went to live outside.  Not yet. I am stubborn, it wasn’t Christmas yet and that tree was coming inside.   The tub was fixed and the tree came back. We celebrated a happy Christmas with our pet tree and kept it until New Years Day

Then it was time to plant.  Here is a useful piece of information for those of you who live in southwestern Ohio and might be planning on a living tree.  Start planning in July.  To plant a tree you need a large hole.  To dig a whole in southwest Ohio in December you need dynamite. You also need a place to dig the hole.  We lived in an apartment.  Eventually we were able to prevail upon some friends who owned a house.  I don’t remember getting the tree over to their house; N says he remembers this part quite well.

We did dig the hole; there were explosives involved.  Some people in our family (N) thought this was the fun part.  Other people in our family (me) kept counting everyone’s fingers.  Finally our little tree had a home.

I would go to visit my tree from time to time that winter rejoicing in its lovely green branches. April came at last to southern Ohio and the world turned green.  Most of the world turned green that is.  One little part of the world turned brown.  My poor little tree had been through too much.  We cut him down and returned his remains to the earth from whence he came.

Now we go to the lovely Broken Arrow Tree Farm here in Connecticut every year and cut a lovely white pine. (I have no connection to these people; they really do have beautiful, well cared for trees.)  I no longer have a problem with tree murder.  The cutting, schlepping, tying to the roof of the car process usually elicits some grumbling, but in general, this is a fun family activity.  The tree is decorated and people are happy.

I did mention to N recently that we do live on three acres of land now.  There are lots of places for a living tree.  He threw a string of lights on a yew in the front yard and said, “Look a living tree.”

Wishing you all :

A belated Happy Chanukah

A Merry Christmas

A happy Kwanzaa

A delightful Epiphany or Three Kings Day

A belated good wishes on Eid-al-Adha

And all of my best wishes for  the holidays I’ve forgotten or know nothing about.

I truly wish each and every one of you all the joys of the season.  May your lives be filled with peace and joy and memories.

They said it would never last.  They really did say that forty years ago when Norman and I were married and they had good reason.  We are very different people, different interests, different religions, and raised in very different circumstances by very different people. It hasn’t always been an easy marriage and never a simple one, but it has never, not even for a single day, been boring.  We were both heavily influenced by our mothers; I’m sure we were also influenced by our fathers, but it is our mothers’ ways that we remember most.

We lost both of these women in the last few months and I’d like to tell you a little bit about them and about us.

Both of our moms left their jobs to care for their families.  In this these two rather different women were quite similar.  They were devoted to their children and to their children’s future.  Norman and I both remember knowing we would attend college for all of our lives.  We probably knew this in the womb.  The only allowable question was which college we would attend.  Our mothers worked tirelessly for our schools.  They were presidents of the Parent Teacher Organizations; always available to help in the classroom or with any extracurricular activities we might be involved with.

I remember a basement full of Girl Scout cookies when my mother was cookie chairman.  Norman remembers hutches full of rabbits for his brother’s Boy Scout merit badge project and chickens for his sister’s 4H project.  His mother dispatched them as necessary.  We both remember the many hours they listened to us read or helped us learn to write.

How did the children of such different backgrounds meet?  We met at college in Ohio.  It was the farthest west I had ever been.  It was the farthest east he had ever been. We both yearned for the experiences that were second nature for the other.  He took me camping, fishing, and boating.  I took him to New York and showed him how to master the subway.  We met each other’s families.  He took me to the northwest where I thought he would kill us both when he stopped to eat wild berries.  My people knew that things that grew in the woods were dangerous.  Norman knew what wild blackberries looked like.  I found out what delicious means.  I took him to Philadelphia and taught him about lox and bagels.  He learned the proper protocol for ordering in a Jewish deli.  When we moved to New Haven years later he went to the local Jewish deli for the first time with our two young children in tow. He was obviously a stranger.  Half an hour later, having ordered properly, one thing at a time, and having schmoozed about our history with the owners, he belonged.  The children each left with a cookie in hand.  He says with pleasure that he can pass.  He can, his black Irish looks fit in and his manners are impeccable.  I have learned to fit with his family.  I do my best not to interrupt the speaker with varying degrees of success.  They seem to love me anyway.

We are grown now, both sixty, but all this recent loss has made us feel slightly adrift.  I think we will eventually be fine. We have each other and we were raised right.

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