TALES FROM THE CAVE FAMILY: TURKEY DOWN, TREE UP
Not Until December
I’m from the good old days – back when Christmas was not the Great Red & Green Retail Hope, forced down the throat of every shopper all year long. There really were only about Twelve (Appropriate) Days of Christmas. In fact, I remember when putting up Christmas decorations in the first week of December was considered pushing the season and people had them down by the first Monday after the 25th.
I kept a pretty close eye on the retail end of Christmas, because both my parents had jobs in the business. Mom more than Dad, because Dad’s retail establishment was part of the Veterans Administration’s Hospitals, while Mom worked for a major department store, but both of them benefited from buying marked-down Christmas merchandise. What my mom went through, as Christmas grew into the phenomena it is today, could not be called a benefit.
However, as Christmas grew in retail importance out in the world, my family kept it in perspective at our house. While Mom might find prospective Christmas presents on sale at any time during the year and arrangements for Christmas were usually hammered out via phone or letter by mid-October, not a single decoration went up before the first weekend in December. Well, at least not until 1973.
Home for Thanksgiving
In the Fall of 1973 I went away to college. I didn’t go away far, just to Nacogdoches TX, but my absence rocked my mom’s world. I had noticed in her letters and on our phone calls (few and far between, because long distance was expensive), but if I had missed it there, I would have realized it the minute I arrived home for Thanksgiving.
As soon as I made it home from SFA, I was informed I would be putting up the Christmas tree while I was home. In fact, Mom didn’t see why I didn’t go ahead and get all the decorations out of the garage and start immediately. I balked! I wasn’t going to allow Christmas to start until Thanksgiving was over.
So, Thanksgiving morning I awoke to the smell of the turkey in the oven and up until the meal was over everything seemed normal. However, as soon as the last crumb of pecan pie was consumed, Mom said she and my sister would clean up the dishes, while Dad got the decorations out of the garage and I got the tree set up.
The Queen of Christmas Reigns
I’ll be honest with you. I wasn’t all that thrilled with this idea, but my mom was not one of those people you could ignore. You might get her to postpone her plans, as in acquiescing when I balked at putting the tree up before Thanksgiving dinner, but while she would allow delay, defiance was not an option.
So, the box with the tree, which had already been pulled down off its shelf and was staged by the kitchen door, was brought into the living room. I began assembling the tree and stringing the lights. As Mom and my sister cleaned up the dishes, Dad carried in box, after box, after box, after…well, you get the picture…of lights, decorations and gift wrapping paraphernalia.
By the time all the leftovers were stowed away, all the dishes were washed and dried, and the silver had all been counted and put back in the flannel-lined case, the tree was up and lighted. I was still pretty unhappy with being assigned the task so early. Intellectually I realized that I wouldn’t be back again in time to set it up, but I wasn’t emotionally ready to deal with Christmas until after the first of December.
Then Mom and my sister joined me and began unpacking decorations to go on the freshly lighted tree. Dad turned off the TV and put a stack of Christmas albums on the stereo. Mom began the annual recital of Christmas history.
- Oh look, I can’t believe this ornament made it another year. Your Dad and I bought it for our first Christmas tree.
- Do you remember the aluminum tree we had in Dublin? I bought all these red balls especially for it.
- Jane, I know you prefer a live tree, but do you remember the year Susan was allergic to the tree and couldn’t even open her eyes on Christmas morning?
- Do you girls remember the huge flocked tree we got when we lived on Rupley? It barely fit in the front room.
Every ornament that came out of the boxes had its own story, stories that I loved. Even though I had determined to be pouty and indignant throughout the entire process, it didn’t take to many do-you-remembers to jiggle me out of my ennui. Before I realized it, I was the one reciting the Christmas memories. I began to sing along with the Christmas carols on the stereo and soon we were all having a mid-afternoon hot cocoa break.