“Mother, can we please go ahead and put up the Christmas tree?” I begged, not even trying to hide the pitiful look on my face. “No, Mark, we cannot!” she replied. From the tone of her voice, I knew any further negotiation was off the table. But, still, I tried by using my most persuasive arguments. “Mark, you know we always put the tree up closer to your birthday,” she countered, walking away to end the conversation.
My birthday is December 19 — less than a week before Christmas. Mother was right. The tree decorating always coordinated with my birthday. This was not so much to blend the two events as to make sure the live tree would make it until the end of the year. Thinking back, even I hated the sound the vacuum cleaner made as it sucked up the dead needles after the tree was stripped of ornaments and the living room furniture moved back to where they belonged.
No matter what size tree we picked out at the Farmer’s Market, it always seemed to engulf the room. Back in those days, the only options for a “permanent” tree as Granny called it, was either silver foil or baby-bottle-brush bristles. Neither was a viable option for us. Mother insisted our tree be fresh. Although, I did love the silver tree Granny put up, it certainly couldn’t be lit for fear of fire. So, a multi-colored wheel turned below it causing it to reflect a variety of colors.
Besides having a pre-set date to put up the tree, there was also another rule that we never deviated from because we feared bad luck. Our tree had to be taken down before the new year was ushered in. No ifs, ands or buts about it! We didn’t know exactly what the bad luck would entail but, believe me, we were never allowed to find out!
After I became an adult, got married and had my own house, I went buck-wild by breaking several rules. I put our tree up whenever I took a notion and had a variety of trees spread throughout the house. They were all shapes and sizes and each had a theme. You can imagine that I missed the January 1 deadline just about every year. I sure was scared that first year but we somehow survived.
I’m a little ashamed to tell you what happened two Christmases ago. If Granny were still living, she would be horrified and on her knees in prayer. I left our living room tree full of Christopher Radko ornaments up — not for one month, not for six months but for an entire year! It took me a while to convince Debra it would be alright and no one would end up in jail. Finally, she gave in!
When last Christmas rolled around, I was thrilled! Having to do a lot of decorations for clients at the holidays, I was a step ahead. All we had to do was plug in the lights. The weirdness of having a completely decorated tree up in our living room faded with each month. By September, we thought it was normal.
Now, this is where my story becomes a little more unbelievable. We left it up again last year, too. Take a minute to soak that in! Two years of glittering and glistening glass ornaments greeted us the few times we entered the living room. I enjoyed visiting the tree while not under the spell of Christmas. I was literally so busy at the holidays, I hardly looked at it. When you factor in the fact it takes almost a week to put up, I will have to say the entire experience has been rewarding.
Debra and I had a ceremonial “lighting of the tree” last Sunday night. Just the two of us and our new dog, Bandit, stood in front of it and soaked in its beauty. Bandit was not familiar with such a large, glowing, colorful sight and was a little overwhelmed. I took in a deep breath and let it out. Debra said only two things. “It’s such a pretty tree!” and “It is definitely coming down after this season!” I asked only one thing. “Does it have to be down by January first?”
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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him at instagram.com/mark creates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.