O Christmas tree

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature, Kitchen Table Talk

My Christmas tree has been beautifully decorated and bringing me joy since before Thanksgiving. I can brag about how beautiful it is because I didn’t decorate it. My friend Patti does that for me – which is why it looks so beautiful.


To paraphrase my husband’s favorite series of commercials, I know a thing or two about Christmas trees because I’ve seen a thing or two in Christmas trees. I cannot point to the “traditional” Christmas tree of my childhood because my mother kept changing her mind. I may have seen them all.

Doubt me? Well, I remember live cedar trees that caused the breakage of most of our glass ornaments from Germany – because you just can’t hang anything heavy on a cedar tree limb.

I remember Mother’s white pine stage, because she loved how soft and fluffy they looked. I’m not sure there was a needle left on that tree by Christmas Eve, and we still had weak branches that didn’t like our ornaments.

She moved from white pine to a few artificial ones, including the iconic aluminum tree with the revolving color wheel. We had a silver one that Mother put blue and silver balls on. The next year, she replaced it with a white artificial tree. I’m not sure what it was made of, but it didn’t have many branches, and she could put lights on it.

She missed the “smell of a live tree” and went back to real ones that one of her brothers would chop down for us. One year she decided to “flock” it with Ivory Snow flakes, which got all over everything and covered the glass ornaments that had survived in white gunk.

Then, one year, someone gave her a Fraser fir, telling her it was a North Carolina tree. She never looked back, declaring it the best Christmas tree ever.

When the following year rolled around, Mother shelled out her own hard-earned cash to buy a Fraser fir tree from a Christmas tree lot, something we had never done before.

My brother and I could no longer throw the icicles at the tree. Frasers had long, beautiful branches that showcased ornaments and tinsel, meaning icicles had to be hung one at a time on its sacred branches.

I blame the fir trees for my later obsession with Hallmark ornaments. Even before I gave up and went the “fake” tree route, a Fraser fir would show off my newest ornaments in a good light.

I have boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments in the basement. For many years, I got the ornaments out and decided which ones got to go on the tree that year. My trees were never pretty, but they were always interesting.

Then one year I looked around, and there were only adults in the house. No one really thought having Joe Montana and the witch from “The Wizard of Oz” hanging on the Christmas tree was cool anymore. Darth Vader rasping “The force is with you, young Skywalker” from a top branch just wasn’t working with the grown-ups.

So I put the ornaments back in the boxes and did another one of those things I said I would NEVER do: I decorated a “theme” tree in silver and blue.

One year, my grandson Cohen was here for Christmas, so I decorated a small tree in the kitchen with some of my cool ornaments, just for Cohen and me. The tree was a hit, so there is hope still for future Christmas trees. Maybe next year I will trade beauty for kitsch.

This year’s tree

For this year, however, I am happy with my beautiful tree. Patti and I replaced the blue theme of the past few years with red, so it feels more traditional.

And the tree, although a “fake” one, is a fir, so Mother would be happy.

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