Christmas Spice


Christmas is a time of so many mixed emotions. We’re excited and exhausted. We’re full of joy of the season and nostalgia which brings both tears and laughter. It is also a season of extremes. We spend more of our energy, our money and our time than we ever plan. Let’s lighten up and forget our stress, fatigue and all those things we have left to do and just sit back and enjoy…I hope to bring a smile to your face while you relax.


One particular year, long ago when we still lived in California before coming to Oregon stands out in my mind. It was an event that wasn’t at all humorous at the time it was happening but somehow I knew, somewhere deep inside, “This will be funny someday.”

It has become more precious over the years, in a somewhat perverse way, much like watching a horror flick on TV but being unable to look away or change the channel. It was time for our annual trek to the Christmas tree farm to choose our tree. That particular year, since Jim no longer owned a truck, we had the choice of transporting and hauling the tree on a brand-new car, my husband’s, which was out of the question if one valued their life or my little blue Mustang convertible. Naturally, we both opted for my convertible. Only in California is it fairly common to see someone fetch a Christmas tree in a convertible. Many things can be said about it and I guess the word “festive” would be that word.

On arriving at the tree farm, we were handed the yuletide measuring pole used for measuring the height of the tree wechose. The trees were beautiful as always as their sap filled the air conjuring memories from Christmases past. I asked the owner, a sweet, elderly woman, “What if the pole isn’t as tall as the tree we choose?”She replied, “Oh my dear, that won’t happen. That pole is twelve feet tall.”Poor thing, little did she know she was speaking to the Paul Bunyan of all Christmas tree buyers. I couldn’t help it. I used to simply lose it at Christmas time. I have changed since then but at that time in my life, I became addict like, seeking the largest tree on the lot. Jim, who knew that about me treated me with tolerance and firmness. He knew he couldn’t win. Trudging through the boggy furrows of the farm, we eventually came to the back row of trees. This was to fulfill the old Christmas tree adage, “One always chooses the Christmas tree located the farthest from one’s vehicle.”

As we were seeking our tree for the year, Jim uttered a remark I had never heard him say nor have I since. He said, “No, that one is too small.” I couldn’t believe it but thought it was a good sign. We finally settled on a lovely, majestic Monterey pine which stood as tall as the twelve-foot pole. Once again, I uttered a word of thanks that we had an old Victorian with twelve-fourteen foot ceilings throughout the house. Jim went to fetch the saw while I stood guard lest some other tall tree zealot, strike that, nut job, came along and wanted my tree.

Felling the tree always gives one a sense of wastefulness but thankfully, for me that feeling never lasted very long. Could we go to a tree farm where they had a tractor, an electric cart or better yet a sleigh and eight reindeer? Oh no, not us. We two were on our own dragging a 150 pound tree to my convertible.

The elderly proprietor now accompanied by her gray-haired husband asked us how tall our tree was. Jim replied, “Oh, she had to have one of those giant “Sequoia’s” in the back row.”

After paying for our now beloved tree we hauled it to the convertible. As you can imagine a twelve-foot tree totally fills a top down convertible, the tree looking for all intents and purposes like the owner of the car as Jim looked like the chauffer. The trunk of the tree sat next to Jim in the passenger seat while I, the guilty party who had to have this particular tree was squished into a six-inch space beside 500 wet yet wonderfully fragrant branches. At that time in my life I did not have a six-inch sitter, therefore it made for an interesting ride but, having read the expression on my husband’s face, I did not complain…keeping in the spirit of Christmas and self-preservation, etc.

After arriving at our old Queen Anne home, we proceeded to drag it up the porch stairs and squeezed it through the doorway. We placed the tree stand on the trunk of the pine and proceeded to erect our majestic, wonderfully sappy tree. Of course, another age-old yuletide custom came alive as the huge tree began to lean. That year, having been through this “custom” before, I was prepared. I had wire, wall hooks, hammer, saw and nails all at the ready, just in case. We carefully wired the odiferous and sticky tree to the wall with not just one but three pieces of wire. That baby wasn’t going anywhere. How very little we knew. We stood back to survey our work. It was perfect. I then proceeded to pour a gallon of water into the stand lest the pour tree stump dried over before the giant could drink.

Relieved beyond words, my negative husband went downstairs to utter expletives to himself and to make a sandwich. I, more charged than ever, began to pull out Christmas lights, ornaments and garland. Then something strange began to happen. Our tall, perfectly stable, wired giant tree began to lean precariously and dangerously toward the window in the living room. “Oh, Honey, I think you’d better come up here,” I said.  “Don’t tell me,” he said from the kitchen below.

Believe me, I wouldn’t have told him if I had any other way to go at that particular moment. He came up, sandwich in hand, wolfing it down like a man fearing it would be his last meal, ever and removed the wires. We cajoled and rotated the 150-pound tree, recalcitrant and heavy as it was. It didn’t seem to matter what we did or what position it was in the tree did would not stand without leaning. Despite our best efforts, gravity won every time.

“That’s it!” Jim shouted. “This is the last year we have a Christmas tree. No, I mean it, you mark my words. This is it.”“Now, Jim, don’t say something you’re going to regret. I’m sure we can work this out,” I said.I’m one of those people, if I had been aboard the Titanic would have said with my last moist, gurgling breath, “The Coast Guard will arrive right away, I know it will.”My husband is the type of individual who would have said were he onboard, “With my luck this ship will go down during a steak dinner.”

Our best efforts continued to be futile. Jim stood there surveying the tree, without a shred of Christmas spirit, “Well, I think we should haul this thing out onto the front yard, douse it with gasoline and set it on fire.”  “Now, Jim. Don’t be ridiculous,” I said.“Ridiculous is what we’re doing. No, I’m absolutely serious. If we get a tree at all next year it will be an artificial one from Sears.”To this I replied, “Not while I’m alive.” This I said, to a large man with very sharp saw in his hands. Okay, so I am a foolishly brave woman. “Don’t tempt me,” said he.

“Jim, we have to do something. I’m not going to let you burn this beautiful tree. How about if we cut some more off of the bottom?” I said. “Okay,” he said. “We’ll try it but if that doesn’t work…out she goes. Okay, Sue, get the water out of there.” Note: the tree had become a “she. “Me,” I reply. “Why not you?” If looks could kill I’d have been one dead optimist. “I don’t know how to get it out of the tree stand. What do you want me to do, suck it out?” There it was again. At best, that look from him had Divorce Court written all over it. Is Divorce Court still on television?   “Okay, I know what we’ll do,” I said. “I’ll get a couple of blankets, put them around it to soak up all the water and you tip it over.” Jim rolled his eyes toward heaven, obviously seeking Divine help. He said, “Okay, I think it’s a stupid idea but we’ll try it.”

I placed two large blankets next to the tree and he dumped out the water. My one gallon of water, which then looked like five gallons, began to flow out…but in the opposite direction of the blankets. Chasing the water, I picked up the blankets and threw them at the water flow. Losing my Christmas spirit, the room was now filled with a massive tree, flowing water and two angry, cheerless human beings.

While looking totally disgusted, Jim asked me, “Isn’t that one the electric blanket? “I replied, “Sure it is. I thought I’d get it nice and saturated then ask you to hold it while I plugged it in!” Of course, it wasn’t the electric blanket, only a look-alike. Our daughter entered the room at that point, assessed the situation and said, “Hey, I’m out of here.” I knew she was a smart girl. Then the magic of Christmas came to our rescue. We, or rather he, sawed about four inches off the bottom of that huge tree, we stood it in the stand and magically, it stayed. We placed one wire on it to keep the dog or cat from toppling it. We had a Saint Bernard in those days and it was a genuine concern. We had a wonderful Christmas that year and every year since then.

We, like many of you have evolved into smaller trees, and often an artificial one as part of our bodies became troublesome. Of course, we all grow wiser and realize the joys of Christmas are outwardly displayed in trees, décor, presents and a brightly lit home but the true spirit of Christmas lies within. May your within spirit match your outward spirit this year as you think back on Christmases past, loved ones gone, loved ones still present and the joys that never die. The older I grow, the more I understand why older relatives were always talking about the past. Both Jim and I have had family members and friends taken from us in recent years yet the memories of loved ones are strong and true. They are kept like rare collectibles and are especially enjoyed and revisited during this sacred season. May each of you enjoy, relish and savor your Holy days, whatever you choose to celebrate in the spirit of love and thankfulness. Asfor us we are thankful for the greatest gift ever given from God, His beloved Son in the form of the beloved Christ child who became a man who died to cleanse us so we can have eternal life. Blessed Christmas to each of you my friends.










9 thoughts on “Christmas Spice

  1. Sue
    Only just posted on the previous one today
    But this was so good..I really enjoyed the story .
    I’ve just watched a documentary on Agatha Christie and it was just good to have this to read after
    You and Jim …and your daughter ..were depicted so well along with the lady at the tree farm
    One good Xmas tale
    And true to boot Along with a good message of family and knowingness …good ol Jim
    Happy Xmas to you and the family

  2. Chris, and a Happy Christmas to you and yours as well. Decor is rare around here this year. Got our little tree up and putting on many ornaments very slowly. Half hour here and a half hour there will get it done. Wreath on front door that lights up and a very bits and pieces but nothing like my usual but all wrapped and now DD and I need to plan the meals. Keeping it simple this year. Only the six of us left now and none are big eaters. Don’t know what I will eat this year but will see. Still being told it will take weeks for sigmoid to calm down after such a severe attack. Last night I had some raviolis I had bought weeks ago and were facing an outdate and they were great but a bit too much cheese. Solid food…hurray but taking it easy.
    I hope you are both going to find some pleasure this year. Pray GS is healing from his loss and know it will be subdued holiday for him and for all of you.
    One more blog before the holiday. Love and hopes you are both well enough for joy. Love, Sue

  3. I love this story, Sue! It brought back memories of when we bought live trees. I can recall transporting said trees on tops of cars and in the back of my first Outback, lo, many years ago. You should have seen me trying to get that tree out by myself. I believe just the kids and I went that year, as DH was teaching and we went during the day. Lots of fun memories of decorating with the kids. These days, I tend to do just about all the decor myself. DH helps drag boxes up and down, and take care of some of the outside things, like the floodlight and whatever else I might ask of him. I chose to do a bit less this year, wasn’t feeling my best and busy as always. It still looks festive. We are looking forward to family time this year. The only ones we are buying gifts for this year and the littles, nieces and nephews. Our immediate family will gather Christmas Eve this year. DD’s BF is making lamb, ham, and pork. I’m not sure how 5 of us are supposed to eat all that, but I am quite sure it will all be tasty. He has requested in turn that we make his favorite side dishes from Thanksgiving – green bean casserole (we add some goodies to the classic), potato filling, and I will probably make some of the corn I froze that is still left in the freezer. It will be a wonderful meal, made more so by those who are in attendance.
    Wishing all a happy and healthy holiday season!

    • Lyn, Thanks for sharing your fun experiences with us. You know the real trees are messy but oh the fragrance…I miss. The others are so much prettier than they used to be. We gave away a nine foot Balsam Hills one two years ago and went with a smaller one. It was all I could do to take all this past weekend to get it decorated. Put up a couple of wreaths and that’s it for the year and a big red bow on the lamppost out in front.
      You know I think the most fun time ever was when the kids were small, I was in nursing school as a divorced Mom and we made all of our decorations. So much fun in the doing.
      Enjoy that fabulous feast your DD’s friend has planned. Have a wonderful Christmas. Love you, Sue

  4. Late, as usual. This has become the new me, and I hate it !!! Anyway ! Love the blog, the story and the laughter. At the time it wasn’t very funny, I know. But I can just see the two of you.
    Here, not as festive either. A few of the things I have had and put out for years. But no tree. Just not that into it. The kids are coming (still not sure what day) but Judy has a tree up, so there !
    I have to get moving today. I have some treats to make and get in the mail to my grands in Az. And a special gift to send as well.
    Money is tight this year and I am spending less. But I have lots of handmade things I am passing along to liven up the gifts.
    So busy each day, but making it through. With the Lord’s help.
    Tonight I am going caroling with a bunch in the community. It will be cold for sure, but fun. Tomorrow I must get all my baking done. Saturday night a party Judy and I are going to, Sunday night is our Christmas Program at church. Ronald and I are performing most of it. So no stress here at all.
    My cousins have bought and moved into a house at the beach. may go visit for a few days after the New Year, lol !!
    Okay, I have t get busy. Chris, Lyn. glad all is well with you both. Happy Christmas Chris, and Merry Christmas Lyn.
    And Sue, so glad you are eating now. An answered prayer. He is so good, even when we are suffering. He is our Rock !!
    Love to all

    • Tonie, you sound as busy as usual or maybe more so with all the social bits to do. Does sound like you and Ronald will be appreciated because I know you’re prepared. What fun. WIsh I could be there to hear you both. You’re so blessed to be surrounded by so many dear friends in your church and community. Glad Judy got a tree. Hope her kitty stays out of it. We have a little soldier guarding our tree from Clancy, his name is George and he’s quite fierce. Poor cat. No ornaments on the bottom of our little tree just because I wasn’t sure what Clancy would do. I am limited eating and no nuts and many other foods sort of limits Xmas goodies. The grands don’t eat nuts in anything; not sure where these picky kids came from.
      I am having a hard time with compromise. Two whole boxes of ornaments we didn’t use this year. After having had a nine foot tree and now a small one and my limited health, cutting back is hard for me. I don’t think I’m as bad as Scrooge but I kept thinking with every ornament, “It will just have to come down again in a week or two.” Lack of energy and malaise are hard to fight.
      Jim is going shopping for me today. He is good at picking out prin rib which we’ll eat for Christmas Eve and Day. Ham for those who don’t like beef in the family. Such a small family this year. We’re having rain like mad lately. Oh by the way, got rid of that rat that was harassing us. Put poison in the basement. Clancy doesn’t go down there so all is well. I hate those darn river rats that come up off the ships down at the Columbia River and he or they were driving Clancy crazy. He just sat around staring at the ceiling here in our bedroom because he could hear them running in the attic. Creepy but funny to watch. Have wonderful if quiet holy days and give our Merry Christmas wishes to Bernard when you talk to him. Wish he was there with you dear friend. Much love, Sue

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