Growing up, relatives and friends from near and far would make it a point to visit my family during Christmas. It was probably to visit with me and my three brothers. We were awfully adorable and quite well behaved children. Or it could have been for the endless supply of delectable Italian Christmas cookies. Chocolate chip! Spritz! Pizzelles! The white ones (anisette)! The brown ones (totos)! If you don’t see something you like, just ask, there are at least ten more tins in the garage. Really though, I think it was because they wanted to see the tree. “How big is it this year?” they’d ask. “How did you get that in here?” they’d query.
The Collin Family Christmas tree is epic.
The tree stood 14 feet high with a circumference of 8 feet at its widest point at the pinnacle of Collin Family Christmases. Imagine waking up to see four heaping mounds of presents piled underneath this towering tree on Christmas morning. It was magical. As you might imagine, when you have a tree this big there is a need for many, many, many, MANY ornaments. Some are as sparkly as my Mom. Others are hand me downs from Christmas angels past. All are encompassed with popcorn and beaded strings of garland. There are the retro ornaments that actually originated in the 50’s. The four ducks always placed in a row – one for each of us. There are hand painted, ceramic, and glass and more Santas than you can count. Many have a story behind them. We all have our favorites. Each year, my brothers and I search the tree’s branches to locate all of our contributions to the collection while ragging on each other’s arts and crafts skills. (Pasta noodle ornaments, anyone?) There is only one critical rule to remember once the tree is up: Do. Not. Turn. On. The. Ceiling. Fans.
We share fond memories of the tree process. From hunting it down in layers and layers of cold weather garb at some random tree farm in the middle of nowhere and seeing our dad in action with his hand saw when it was chopped down. To watching him single handedly wrestle down and drag the beast of a tree through a standard size front door frame. It is the stuff legends are made of. My dad has never been one to ask for assistance when it comes to matters of the home, but there was this one time when I “helped” my dad with stabilizing the tree and just when we thought it had been secured…it crashed down upon me. That was fun. Obviously, I remind him of that episode every chance I get. Each year we decorated the tree as a family. My mom headed up distribution; carefully unwrapping each ornament and assigning one of us to gently hang it from the tree. My dad was in charge of the upper echelon of the tree decorating the tallest peaks. If we were lucky, he’d let us try out the ladder and get in on that fun. All this to the melodic sounds of the Nat King Cole Christmas album. The experience always put me in the holiday spirit. Now that I’ve decorated my fair share of Christmas trees with my brood, I’m thinking my parents’ memories may differ. Slightly.
Since we’ve all moved out and have families of our own, my parents initiate an annual teasing with the same empty promise: “I think we’re going to get a small tree this year. Like, 5 feet.” This threat is considered borderline treason in our family. The harassment starts around Thanksgiving. “I’m too old for this.” they say. “You wouldn’t even notice.” they say. I think me, my brothers, our spouses, and 7 grandchildren would all agree that it is not Christmas without the big tree.