After actually considering not getting a tree this year, we went up in the near freezing drizzle today to the usual place in the hills near town, slogged through the red mud, cut down a Grand fir, paid the poor guy whose only customers we were at that hour $20, and took it home and dragged the messy beast into the house. We planted it in our heavy-duty tree stand made from the top of an old milk can welded onto a base that is forever threatening to leak. It went easier than usual from my perspective, although I am not the one wielding the hacksaw, nor twisting the socket wrench while lying on the hard tile under the tree. I picked a nine-footer because I once again forgot that we were putting it in the dining room which has an eight-foot ceiling instead of the living room which has a nine-foot-plus ceiling. This tree is big, as have been all our trees for the 23 Christmases we have lived in this little bungalow. One year we bought an eight-foot tree for the nine-foot-plus room and one of our children, who will remain unnamed, cried. It just wasn't enough tree.
Not having a tree didn't seem right, despite the possibility that the kids would not be home while it's up this year (we are planning to spend Christmas in Seattle, and didn't want them to drive in the opposite direction for just Christmas Eve), and despite the fact that we seldom have company in at Christmas (a fact of which I am considerably ashamed, but a fact still). I realized that something I loved is gone for me if we go completely green and spiritual at Christmas, giving only to charities in the names of those we love, and pondering only the true meaning of Christmas, narrowly construed, to the exclusion of all the things that I looked forward to as a child, and as the mother of small children.
Make no mistake: I don't like the rush, and I do love the mystery of God's descent to us, best expressed for me in the song "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence." But I also do like the tree decorated with all those old ornaments and a few new ones I pick up each year at One Fair World and its ilk. And I do like giving and receiving presents, especially when they show each other that we've been listening and hearing something someone else might have missed. And I really like finding something in a store for someone I wasn't necessarily planning on giving a gift to at all, and getting it for them. And the cherry walnut bars and the M&M cookies. And flashy, flashing sweaters--on others--and the absurd 17-billion watt yard lights in that one house down on Fir Villa Road. If I get none of that, I feel sad. Too much, and I feel frantic.
Here's to a perfect mix for all of you. Oh, and here's that song:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand.
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth
Our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human vesture
In the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank, the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way
As the Light of lights descendeth
From the realms of endless day
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
At his feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence
As with ceaseless voice they cry,
Alleluia, Lord most high.