The Christmas Tree Ritual

Memories of the Cave Family: An Orgy of Gifts

The Manager Has Arrived

I joke a lot about my mom and her bossiness. That’s nothing new. When I still had her with me, I would to tease her endlessly about it. She couldn’t help herself from managing everybody and everything around her.

We’d sit down in a restaurant and within moments she would size up the situation. She would know who was sitting at the tables around us and in what order they should be served. She would figure out the relationship between the patrons at each table and why they were in the restaurant. She usually ascertained the capabilities of a server before they ever got to our table. Woe to them if they delivered food out of order. As Mom gave me the running commentary, I’d say, “Well, the manager has arrived.”

She often delegated tasks to me, but never let me forget who was in charge. For instance, I was responsible for her move from Carissa to “active senior living.” I’d hired the mover and made all the arrangements, but when the crew showed up, it was obvious they’d sniffed out my easy-going attitude.

I called them all together and said, “Listen up, guys. It’s obvious that I am a push over and you may think this move is going to be a breeze, but you’re not working for me. You’re moving my mom’s treasures and she is The Wrath Of God On Legs. You scratch her furniture or drop her knick knacks and you are going to figure out why I call her that.” They suddenly started behaving like they were moving the contents of the White House.

The Program

So, it’s no wonder that Mom had Christmas down to a science, but it was good science, because Mom believed in keeping the main thing the main thing. No matter how much time she spent pursuing the trimmings associated with the holiday season, we always knew the basis for the celebration. The Lakeside Baptist Candlelight Eve Service was just as much a part of our Christmas Eve celebration as the prime rib dinner and The Program was as important as unwrapping gifts.

The Program was a little ritual Mom invented to keep Christ in Christmas. To start, the family would sing a traditional Christmas Carol. Not some popular song about chestnuts, Santa, snowmen or reindeer, but a song about the Christ Child being born in a manger. For many years an old upright piano dominated the living room and I would be forced to pound out the tune with all my ineptitude. It was a happy day for me when Mom decided I would never be a pianist and sold the piano.

Then it was time for my portion of The Program. Sometimes I’d read a book like The Littlest Angel or excepts from The Other Wiseman, but I’d also get creative on them. Once I demonstrated the meaning of the ornaments on a Jesse Tree I’d made in a craft class. Another time I found a paper-doll set which illustrated how various cultures envisioned Santa. One time I actually wrote a poem honoring my mom.

Whatever I dreamed up, I was only the warm up for the most important part of The Program. That’s when my little sister would read the Christmas story out of the Bible, either from Matthew or Luke, but we preferred Luke’s version. That’s how my mom kept the main thing the main thing.

Then we’d open gifts and there was an orgy of presents under the tree. My little sister had one other important job. She was Santa’s elf, delivering each present to it’s recipient. Mom had one more rule. We opened our presents one at a time, so each gift received the wonder, honor and surprise it deserved (even when the surprise was feigned).

The Queen of Christmas no longer lives at 10935 Carissa, but in spite of the extensive renovations, much of her remains. The yard is full of things she planted. The patio she turned into a sunroom for her potted plants survived. Her storage shed is in the backyard. She’d love for you to come, bring your family, and make her house a home once more.