Christmas 2014 walked up to me this morning and tapped me on the shoulder and said hello.
And I said hello back.
At 5:30 a.m., as I was taking Parker for his daily stroll, I walked by our neighborhood firehouse. The lawn was full of Christmas trees for sale; stiff and straight, branches held with twine like closed umbrellas, they leaned against yellow sawhorses, waiting for eager purchasers.
It wasn't so much the sight of them that started to stir my Christmas spirit. It was the scent of them, the musky, green smell of fresh needles and sticky sap.
As a youngster, I don't remember buying the family Christmas tree, mostly because we weren't privy to that particular piece of the holiday magic. See, when we were kids, Santa brought everything: presents, trains, decorations and yes, even the tree.
My brothers and I would go to bed Christmas Eve with exactly two things in place in the house, our stockings and the creche.
When we awoke Christmas morning, St. Nick had not only fulfilled our every wish, but he had festooned every corner of the living room with spangly, sparkly specialness.
As I got older, I was let in more on the behind-the-scenes prep, and Dad would take us to the local fire station and buy a tree there.
Our tradition of putting the tree on a platform, with a ring of trains around the base, made purchase a bit difficult. We could not manage the seven-foot behemoths that were dazzling to the eye. I can still hear Dad saying, "Eight-foot ceilings minus three feet for the platform means no bigger than a five foot tree." It's a mantra I still employ when we shop for our own tree now.
When my older brother was in high school, he was part of a volunteer crew that worked at a nearby special-needs school. As a fundraiser, the school sold trees every year, and in return for donating his time, he and the other students got their "pick of the litter" when it came to Tannenbaums. He would bring home the most picture-perfect trees I have ever seen.
The tradition of obtaining a tree morphed as the years went on. When Eileen and I moved to Montgomery County, we were very near a tree farm that enabled cutting our own. Mom and Dad would accompany us, and we finished the day with a hearty lunch. These outings were eventually accompanied by grandchildren. Dad and I often teased about how little we paid for our trees; "Mine was only $10," he would joke.
"Wow," I'd counter. "Mine was $12, but I got it drilled and baled for nothing."
"Hmm. You drive a hard bargain." **wink**
Welcome Christmas. You're beginning to stir my heart once more.