LOIS HOLT: The Prettiest Christmas Tree In the World
A tradition, as stated in the second definition listed in my copy of the 1974 edition of Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, is "an inherited pattern of thought or action."
That clearly qualifies the highly anticipated, day-long chaos associated with putting up my artificial, pencil-thin, pre-lit Christmas tree.
At the time of its purchase four years ago, pre-lit trees were a marvel new to the market. And, at $149.95, I considered its one-year guarantee to be a bargain, especially since it came in three parts that could be stacked one on top of the other, put in its base and plugged in within a matter of approximately 30 minutes, start to finish.
Actually, the suggestion was made by my son, Mark, who inherited from me the notion that one's Christmas tree should be up and all the accessories of the season in place by the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Additionally, the matter of space and placement were taken into consideration, along with the fact that I had to move only one small piece of furniture in order to make room for its slender 8-foot frame.
It all started with the understanding that Mark would drive down from Durham on the Sunday following Thanksgiving Day to decorate the tree. Then, that led to the conclusion that it was the perfect time to invite a few friends over. Since he knew all of them, he agreed that he would help with the preparations and food and stay through late evening. Thus, the scene was set, establishing my own tradition of having a "Christmas Tree Party."
Sunday, Nov. 30, was a miserably cold and rainy day. My friend, Suzanne, had come over on Saturday to help me unpack, assemble the tree and put it in place. So, when Mark drove up around 11 the following morning, I was ahead of schedule and already unwrapping and laying out ornaments.
We were having some of Wendy's chili and a grilled pimento cheese sandwich on our lunch break when he brought up the story about "The Prettiest Christmas Tree In the World."
In the mid-1980s, I made an uncertain move that put me in J-11, a 900-square-foot unit in the Croasdaile Apartments in Durham and had brought along as much furniture as I could possibly accommodate. It was wall-to-wall, and then some.
I was recently divorced, working and younger than the more elderly residents who, by choice or necessity, were temporarily in a similar situation. Most, like me, were plotting their escape and biding time.
Thanksgiving came and went. None of my neighbors had put up any Christmas decorations. And I was trying to decide how I could find space for a tree when Mark came up with the solution.
I had a large balcony looking out at K, L and M. Before moving in, I had indoor-outdoor carpet installed on the balcony and on the second-floor landing. It had the effect of extending the unit, so when Mark suggested that we could put a tree on the balcony, it made sense. If I pulled the sheers back from the sliding glass doors, the lights on the tree would create a two-dimensional illusion. The tree would seem to be inside while actually being outside. Putting it in place was, according to Mark, simply a matter of hoisting it over the balcony railing.
Within a matter of hours, the reflection of a tall, full, sweet-smelling "real" tree was lighting up my apartment and the lives of my neighbors. Some had secretly watched from between the slit of drawn drapes. Others stood on their sidewalks, ventured onto their patios, or hung over their own railing as a living symbol of Christmas transformed their troubled lives and mine.
My "Christmas Tree Party" has gotten better and better, and Mark stays later and later.
But, we know that the tree standing on the balcony of J-11 was for us, "The Prettiest Christmas Tree In the World."
Contact Southern Pines writer Lois Holt at email@example.com.
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