Everyone, meet Gladys. We brought her home a couple of weeks ago. And I’ve just finished dressing her in her beads and bobbles. She looks lovely, I think. Not too ostentatious or overdone. With a few slightly vintage accessories, and a few that are really old. She’s kind of classic. And authentic… I mean she is a real tree after all.
Gladys, all dressed and ready for Christmas
She looks lovely now. But she’s a fiesty little thing; Hubby and I had considerable trouble getting her to stand up straight. Tree wrangling can be stressful, you know. It’s one of those jobs that can put a bit of strain on a marriage. There was cursing, and fuming, and threatening that this would be the absolute last year we had a real tree. Then Hubby got his drill, and made new holes in the tree stand, and added new screws. And voilà, Gladys was upright. We sighed, and smiled at each other, and all thoughts of getting an artificial tree evaporated.
Sounds silly to name your Christmas tree, doesn’t it? But Hubby and I have been doing this since our very first Christmas tree back in 1985. Naming our Christmas tree actually started back home on the farm in the late seventies. You see, one year my stepdad brought the tree in from the bush and left it in the barn. Then the weather turned warm, and then cold again, and then really cold. And when we finally brought it inside, our poor tree was looking a bit bedraggled. Its spindly, needled fingers all gnarled and curled up. Kind of like it had arthritis, my mum said. And then she started calling it “Arthur.” Get it? Because it had Arthur-itis. Sigh. We do love a bad joke in my family.
But surprisingly, once we had dressed Arthur in garlands, and balls, and lights, and tinsel, he became our best tree ever. Not perfect looking… no, no… not by any means was he a perfect tree. But he had personality. And we loved him.
Gladys can watch the action out on the river from her spot by the window.
Hubby and I have had trees named Lucy, and Miriam, and Bill, and a small, sweet, very round tree we called Beulah. Ha. I’m not sure my paternal grandmother would have appreciated our naming a fir tree after her. She was a bit fastidious, a little hoity-toity. But Beulah was a perfectly lovely tree. Besides my father’s mother was a little person, who was quite round.
Love this clothes peg reindeer I bought at the farmer’s market in Fredericton in 1983
As I said, Gladys is now bedecked in ornaments some of which are quite old, and some of which are really old. I love old Christmas trimmings. The papier mâché Santa Claus we put on the top of our tree belonged to Hubby’s grandmother, and then to his mum, and now to us. It’s well over a hundred years old. I have lots of ornaments that I don’t put on the tree every year. Some made for me by students, signed on the bottom, ‘from Andrea,’ or Steph. One from my first year teaching is a beautiful wooden goose, made by an adult student who did lovely tole painting. I suppose one year I’ll have to have a Christmas trimming clear-out. But not this year.
This old Santa has seen many, many Christmas seasons… over a hundred.
I finally brought this old Santa in his sleigh, below, back from New Brunswick last summer. My Mum gave it to me years ago, but I could never fit in into my luggage. I’ve loved it as long as I can remember. It started looking a bit tatty when I was around ten or eleven years old, and so I refurbished it. I made new red ribbon reins and a new sack to put on the sleigh. Then I used cotton balls to fix Santa’s beard and the trim on his hat, and gave him little boots made of black construction paper. Now… even the refurbished bits are fifty years old. The reindeer have lost most of their antlers, and the little green trees are bleached white. But it’s precious to me. What an old softie I am, eh?
Santa’s beard needs seeing to again.
I guess we’re all a bit sentimental around Christmas. The other day, Mum and I were talking on the phone about our Christmas plans. And we began to talk about our favourite Christmas stories. How my stepfather used to hitch up the horse and sled, and we’d go out back to cut our tree. The Christmas morning she awoke to find my sisters’ boyfriends asleep under the tree; I wrote about that in a post a couple of years ago. We talked about our favourite old movies. Miracle on 34th Street, the original one with Maureen O’Hara, and John Payne, and Ed Gwenn as Santa. And of course, my favourite, It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. I think I can recite most of the important scenes of both movies by heart.
Gladys by night… and the view of the Rideau beyond
And partway through our conversation Mum’s doorbell rang. I heard it distinctly in the background. So we said we’d speak later in the day, and hung up. Then a while later Mum called me back. She said by the time she got to the door, there was nobody there. She opened the door, and looked out on the deck, and in the driveway, and there was no one.
But the bell had rung. She was sure about that. I’d heard it too, hadn’t I? “Yep,” I said.
“Well,” she said with a chuckle, “I guess it was just Terry getting his wings.”
I laughed and brushed away a tear. Then I recited in my best imitation of little Zuzu from It’s a Wonderful Life: “Teacher says… every time a bell rings… an angel gets his wings.”
And I thought to myself, but didn’t say out loud, “Atta boy, Terry.”
If you aren’t a regular reader of my blog you may not know that my big brother Terry passed away in September. This is our first Christmas without him. Now, I don’t mean to get all soppy here. I may be sentimental in my inability to get rid of tatty old family Christmas trimmings, but I’m usually not soppy. Mum and I didn’t get soppy on the phone. We laughed. And, you know, the best part of her saying what she did was the shared understanding, the shared joke. Because I knew immediately what she was talking about.
And that’s the best part of Christmas, don’t you think? The sharing. I’m not talking about presents, and on-line gift guides. I’m so tired of blogs and websites that purport to offer the perfect gift guide. We’ve pretty much eschewed the whole gift buying thing in the past couple of years.
But the sharing of memories, and family stories, and old jokes. And, of course, food, and conversation, and time together, and just offering your company even if it is over the phone… that’s the main thing.
To me, anyway.
So my friends. I wish you all a wonderful season of sharing. Even if your tree doesn’t have a name. Even if you don’t have a tree at all.
That’s it for me until the New Year. I won’t be blogging for a week or so. Hubby and I will be doing lots of skiing… hopefully. And eating. Which will necessitate more skiing.
And of course we’ll be spending lots of quality time with Gladys.
High Heels in the Wilderness is for women like me. Women who love clothes. And books. Who dream of travelling to amazing places. Who want to explore their own lives, and their own potential, now that they aren't twenty (or even forty) anymore.