Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 1

December 1 - The Christmas Tree

Today we begin our annual Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, thanks to the prompts of Thomas MacEntee over at GeneaBloggers. 

I absolutely LOVE this time of year! And this blogging prompt! A couple of years ago, I even took the calendar as posted to this blog, and had it printed into a book for my parents. Now, they are able to look at it and see what Christmas has become to me, thanks to their wonderful upbringing!

So, we begin with the very first day of our journey. Let's look at Christmas trees!

Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

As a youngster, growing up in the naval port of Norfolk, Virginia, where my Dad was stationed for nearly twenty years, I can remember having a live tree for the earliest years. Dad was gone at sea most of the time, and Mom would pick one out in a lot. She'd look for the fullest tree she could find! I can remember when I was about 5 holding the tree upright so that Mom could stand back and see if it had any "holes" [bare patches].

Oh, how I loved the wonderful scent of pine! [Still do!] Most of the trees that I can recall were soft, southern pines, with those long needles. I still like those, but my absolute favorites are the short needle versions of firs. A more beautiful site than a Douglas Fir simply does not exist!

As I got a little older, and we progressed up the financial rungs, and Mom and Dad bought a new home in a very nice neighborhood, Mama went from a live tree to an artificial one. Because there was no need for watering it, and there were no shed needles to have to vacuum up from the carpet!

I learned to "like" an artificial tree. And many today are so realistic looking, you almost wonder! However, the scent and feel are lost. So my absolute favorites are still live trees.  Even though the expense overwhelms me! [This year we will drag out our artifical tree yet once more, and hope for enough cash stashed away next year to get a live tree again!]

Most of my personal photographs are in storage, yet to be brough back in our home [I really should go get them!]. But I found a few...

This was my second Christmas. When I was 13 months old. We had just moved to Norfolk, Virginia. This would be the last Christmas I was an only child! LOL You can see our tiny [almost Charlie Brown-esque] Christmas tree on the table above me.

This was Christmas I was two years old. My baby sister had been born in August. You can see here that Mama had improved with a full-sized tree!

Although a little fuzzy [can you say "Brownie Instamatic?], this was when I was in the 3rd grade.
[Remember wool jumpers?] Again, a live tree. About 5-foot tall, but very full!

By 1977, I was married, and we were living in a tiny two-room flat in Killeen, Texas. Downtown [think red-light district!], and I loved my neighbors! We lived in an end unit, and to our right was a male prostitute, who watched out for me when he knew I was alone. [Our walls were paper thin. He could hear our conversations, and I could easily hear his! What an eye opener that was! Ha ha] Third door down from us was a retired cowboy. Yes, a real cowboy. He cooked me the best cornbread I've ever eaten over an open fire in a pit in our back lot! And I loaned him books. Which he reciprocated with cowboy novels. I introduced him to romance, and he introduced me Louis L'amour, Zane Grey, and a multitude of westerns! [And I love those to this day!]

Our tree was only 18-inches tall. And our ornaments were tiny little things I found at the dime store. The little nativity set was one made from plaster of paris that Mom sent to me unpainted. I bought a multi-pack of model paints and painted them. I used that set for years!!!

In 1979 we didn't have a tree. We were living in a small one-bedroom apartment in Germany. The day we were able to take the bus to the country to pick out a tree, I was sick with the flu!
We made due with a poster of Santa, hung on the wall.
I hung garland around it. And placed our gifts on the floor in front of it. And this was my oldest son's first "Christmas Tree". We loved it!

In November of 1981 I gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. That's me with them in front of our "stolen" Christmas tree. By now we lived outside the small village of Freihung, Germany. And we literally stopped while taking a long drive through country lanes and cut a small tree for this Christmas! The star on top was carfted by my ex-husband from cardboard and aluminum foil. We bought a single 12-pack of silver foil bulbs, no lights, silver tinsel and garland, and we strung popcorn.
Wasn't it beautiful? We thought so!!! But with those precious babies in front of it, you really can't see the tree for the way they are shining! 5-lbs 6-oz and 6-lbs 4-oz at birth!

In 1981, in our little home in Ludowici, Georgia. [Note the Smurf stroller my daughter got!]

This was an artificial tree. And it was a re-gifted tree. It wasn't even new. But I used it for several years!!!

That's me in 1987. This is another artificial tree, with my crocheted angel tree-topper. By now I had five children, and was a student in a nursing program. [On this Christmas, my three boys found switches bundled and tied with a ribbon under the tree, and the girls found sacks of coal in their stockings! All but one laughed and thought it funny. The one who didn't cried and cried! I would never do that to a child ever again!!! [He thought he got the switches because Santa had put him on the naughty list, even though he had a ton of other gifts under the tree!!!] Broke my heart.

Jump forward to 1991. I didn't find one of my house, but we spent the day with my sister. And she had a lovely small artifical tree there in the corner. That's me playing the piano, and her kneeling beside me. Every year we sing carol's together after we open gifts. It's my favorite part of Christmas!
Dad joins in as well! We may not be professional, but it's pure love!

In 1998 I married Texican. He and I have had two real trees in our 14 years of Christmas together, beginning in 1997. One in 2002, and again in 2004. I can't find pictures of either right now. But the last one [2004] was so extravagant! It was done all in crystal and white. Beautiful crystal bulbs and snow white snowflakes that I had hand crocheted. It was a beautiful 7-foot fir. And the scent was heavenly! [That tree set us back $75!!!] But was worth every single penny!!!

In 2007 I was living in a 1959 8 x 40 - foot travel trailer! Here's the tiny little tree I had then. All in silver and white! Loved it!

Then in 2008 we moved into the home we are in now.

Here is our tree from 2009. Again all silver, gold and white. Compact but it was fun!

Then in 2010 I decided to do an ancestry tree!

Over 45 small acrylic holders hold images of mine and Texican's ancestors!

Here's a closeup of the pictures on the tree.

And here it is lit at night.
Loved it!

And this year's isn't up yet. [Tomorrow or Saturday!]

My ancestors had 6 or 7 foot pines that they cut from their own property. My Grandma Dreher remembered having a tree with only ornaments and no lights. While my Grandma Bean could tell me about a tree with paper chains, handmade fabric bows and popcorn strung. She said they also strung acorns. Sometimes gathered feathers and sewed them into a bundle with fabric ribbons and hung upon the tree. Both couldn't remember a topper on the tree.

Grandpa Dreher remembered candles on his tree. [He was second generation German-American. And his family carried over the old country ways, including speaking in German while at home.]

I think I would like to have a tree that had only handmade ornaments. And that might be something to aspire to for next year!

What kind of trees have you had? What kind did your ancestors have?

What kind will you have this year?

1 comment:

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Very cool...sounds like a military family to me! I love your ancestor tree...what a cool idea!