Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grandpa Grandpa's Christmas Tree

This morning, my little boys woke up excited, because I promised them last night that we would be decorating the tree today. Even before they had had breakfast, or any of us had even considered getting dressed, my little loves reminded me of that promise and asked if we could get started. So I slipped into my shoes and brought in the wealth of Christmas decorations I've accumulated over the last 10 years.

Now, typically, my husband helps me string the lights-- because our 8 foot tree is almost 3 feet taller than me and getting the lights -around- the top is nearly impossible for me to do by myself. That wasn't going to stop my sons though! So my oldest volunteered to stand on the arm of the couch and help me, while I moved the foot stool around, and between us, we got it strung up nicely. The first strand we put on were the new LED lights that my husband wanted to test out. Right now, I'm going to say they are -COOL-! Not only are they 1.) More energy efficient and 2.) Way the heck brighter than regular Christmas lights, they ALSO come with a variety of flicker patterns you can set with a push button!

Then I began opening the boxes and tins full of ornaments. This year, as my boys are getting older, I would open a tin, give them each one, taking a tin with heavy or breakable ornaments myself, and we would go around and decorate the tree-- following 2 simple rules: spread them out-- there's a lot of tree to cover; and no arguing about placement. And we had a ball!! There was no arguing-- and LOTS of laughter and smiles-- and when we were done, the only thing remaining was for my husband to come place the star on the top of the tree. Then we turned on the lights and admired our handiwork.

I've always admired the eclectic nature of our Christmas tree. There's never any tinsel. It's always colored lights with a star on top. But ever since the first year Mark and I bought Christmas ornaments for our very first tree together, it's always been an interesting variety of ornaments. There are a large multitude of bells-- glass, metal, and even purely decorative. If you nudge our tree as you pass by, it tinkles merrily at you. Angels, Santas, prisms, stained glass, photographs, Christmas trees, German straw ornaments, pull string toys-- and a wealth of ornaments from my childhood that my mother has passed on to me, all share the branches of our holiday evergreen. And all lit up, it never fails to make me smile.

So, you might be wondering, at this point, what any of that has to do with my title, and who Grandpa Grandpa is. But before I can get there, I have to tell you about my nativity. See, when I was seven years old, my Grandma Carole took a ceramics class, and she created this wonderful nativity scene that she gave to my family. And every year, my mother would set it out, and we weren't allowed to touch any of it. My sister and I loved the whole thing-- but our absolute favorite piece was the donkey. Bear in mind that we were children of the 80s and the A-Team was one of the COOLEST shows on television. So this donkey's name was, "Mr. T Donkey"....It still is. My kids have no clue who Mr. T is, but they can tell you this donkey's name (;

Well, three years ago, we went to visit my parents in Missouri for Christmas, and my mother didn't have the nativity out. It almost broke my heart! There were so many fond memories of my childhood wrapped up in that display! And my mother gave me a wonderful gift-- She knew that it mattered to me-- and so she passed it on to me, to display and share with my children. And every year I have.

...You're still wondering about Grandpa Grandpa, aren't you?

Fine, fine. Okay, so when I was a child growing up, my mother was in the ARMY. And when I was seven, she had to spend the year in Korea-- which meant that my sister and I stayed with my dad's parents: Grandma Carole and Grandpa George, in Connecticut. And they are WAY big into decorating for Christmas! Now, my Grandma Carole is Sicilian-- and her father had a last name I couldn't possibly pronounce... and have long since forgotten. But I knew he was older than my grandparents. So my sister and I christened him, "Grandpa Grandpa". We loved going over to Grandpa Grandpa's house because he LOVED the red pistachio nuts-- and we learned to love them from him. Salty goodness that also dyed our finger red-- it was childhood bliss! And one of my fondest Christmas memories is quite short, but I know it was at Grandpa Grandpa's house:

It was getting late, my sister and I were both getting very tired, but my Grandparent's weren't ready to go home. All the adults were sitting around the dining room table, talking, laughing and visiting. And I came over and asked when we'd be leaving because we were tired. Grandma Carole told us to go lay down beneath the Christmas tree and count the lights. My sister and I thought it was delightful! Getting to lay with our heads down under the tree and on the tree skirt, with our legs sticking out into the room, looking up through the branches, watching the large colored lights flickering, and trying to count them. Giggling and talking as little girls and sisters will. It was like being in a fairy forest. And I remember fighting to keep my eyes open to look at the lights just a -little- bit longer. And drifting off to sleep warm, happy, with the distilled murmur of my Grandparent's voices, the smell of pine and the beautiful flickering lights.

Well, I've been thinking about that off and on today, thanks to the single string of flashing LED lights that I spread from top to bottom around the tree before putting on the regular lights we always use. Our tree has been beautiful and lit all day long. And several times today, I've caught myself staring at the lights... lost in the memories and smiling.

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