Saturday, December 18, 2010

“O Christmas Tree”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

My desire to practice the art of creative writing first awakened during childhood years. It has continued since then as a persistent habit. But the holiday season evokes memories of another inclination that began during those formative years – the need to decorate my own Christmas Tree.

This want first manifested itself when I lived in Virginia, during the early 1970’s. Using a small hacksaw, I collected an unwanted live tree from a neighbor’s estate. It was flat and brown on one side, but perfect for my basement bedroom.

I rescued a few discarded ornaments, including one patched with masking tape. Then, I made others from construction paper. The result was satisfying, if not beautiful.

A statement of personal independence had been made.

One year later, I was given a budget tree from the local Hills department store. My parents must have decided that another junkyard creation would be too much to bear. This artificial evergreen was about two feet tall. Its branches were covered with what looked like thin strands of plastic wrap. The tree sat in a pot made of recycled cardboard.

Amazingly, it lasted until I was out of high school.

As I grew older, my decorating habits became more complex. Eventually, this Christmas centerpiece boasted improvised ornaments made from household junk, and a Harley-Davidson logo as its topper.

Then, the tradition disappeared.

As an adult, I moved on to new routines. Our household tree reflected my first wife’s ability to connect each ornament with something in our daily life. For us, the holidays became more of a typical, shared experience.

I focused on being a parent, and uncle. Self-expression became less important as I thought about helping to inspire the next generation.

But along the way, something jogged my memory. Suddenly, I wanted to trim a tree – again.

My second faux pine came as a marked-down item from Fisher’s Big Wheel. It stood about a yard high. This size was perfect for a second-hand table in my basement studio. Standing amid boxes of vinyl records and vintage guitars, it looked a bit out of place. But when adorned with leftover beer cans, the centerpiece took on an undeniable aura of Rock & Roll flair.

With each following Yuletide season, I chose a different decorating theme. One year had the tree wearing assorted key chains on its limbs. Another found it draped with automotive tools and parts. Then 45 rpm records. And Cleveland sports memorabilia. Eventually, I assembled a formidable collection of oddball ornaments from thrift stores and yard sales that reflected a sense of holiday rebellion.

When Art Modell dumped Bernie Kosar as the Cleveland Browns quarterback in 1993, my tree boasted a Texas-shaped ornament found at the Discovery Shop in Chardon. This was because he had landed in Dallas, as a member of the Cowboys.

I sent Kosar a personal note about the ornament and he responded with an autographed photo. It made a perfect companion to my holiday display.

With each Noel that passed, the tree served as a focal point for holiday cheer, until life again became too busy.

Finally, the Big Wheel tree reappeared when I closed out my storage space in Montville, a few months ago. It had been packed away for a long time, after career interests took over and leisure time became scarce.

I was fascinated by its humble appearance.

The tree still rested in a shipping box from the bankrupt retailer. Its box read “TT 404086T - Dawn Products Corporation, 29 Elm Avenue, Mt. Vernon, NY 10550. Made in the USA.” The local store number, 69, was written in marker ink.

After locating my stash of ornaments, I decided to decorate the prefab evergreen once again. I began to ponder bygone memories as everything came together. And then a Yuletide carol sounded in my head:


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You’re beautiful to me
A plastic pine
You look so fine
With cans of Genesee
Your branches bend
Under the weight
Of bottled sauce
From Quaker Steak
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You’re beautiful to me

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Hear our celebration
You make us sing
As cell phones ring
With holiday elation
Now lake effect
Snowfall is here
Our roads are closed
So we drink beer
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Hear our celebration

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Your beauty makes us linger
On winter nights
We take delight
From tunes by Twisted Sister
The years have gone
But we’re still here
Shovel snow, and
Look out for deer
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Your beauty makes us linger

The tree glistened and sparkled as never before. It had opened a time portal through which I could see across the generations - all the way back to 1971.

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