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Holiday missteps have their place

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

Holidays are for family.  Some of the most significant and treasured memories in the history of any family are centered around the traditions of the family meals, the tree decked with special ornaments and endearing moments shared between the generations.

Through the years, our family has a stash of such moments. 

And then there are others. 

One year when the children were all not yet teenagers, friends whose roots are in southern Kentucky invited us to the family farm for an old fashioned tree cutting weekend.  The family farm came complete with an extra farmhouse for our use.  We slept under mountains of cozy blankets and woke to enjoy a breakfast which would put any bed and breakfast to shame. 

Our host pulled the farm wagon up to the house and we all piled on for the trip into the back fields for the perfect tree search.  And the rains came.  It wasn’t cold, so a Christmas card, picture perfect snow was not in the offing. The kids were immune to the weather conditions and the mud.  The adults were in grin and bear it mode. There will be a story to tell when the children are grown.

The rains were incessant: A tree was chosen, chopped down and hauled back to the car in record time.  We had a plan for the return trip home with a tree. In hindsight, the execution of the plan was lacking in practicality. We had brought along great lengths of roping. We lashed the tree to the top of the mini-van, for some reason determining it would be more secure for the trip if a length of roping was run through the front car windows.  Perhaps that would have been a reasonable approach, had it not been raining at a torrential level.

As the rain soaked through the roping, a steady trickle leaked along the rope into the car, dripping a continuous stream onto the driver side and front passenger side for the full hour and a half ride home. The children were dry and toasty in the back seats.

Arriving home, we were on a tight schedule for a holiday concert.  The van was parked undercover in the carport and we piled into the second car.  Returning home after dark, it was decided the tree would hold for the next day when young folks and parents, would be fresh for the task. 

Morning dawned; a fresh, crisp, cold, December morning.  The temperature had dropped several degrees overnight.  While it would be several hours before we gathered around to string lights and place ornaments, the tree couldn’t ride atop the van all day. I bundled up and proceeded to untie the roping.  I gave no thought to its frozen state.  I reached up and gave the trunk base a tug to pull it smoothly off the back of the van — it didn’t budge. 

The tree, it’s branches and needles, drenched by the previous day’s rain, had frozen to the top of the van.  There was nothing to do but pull harder. The thing couldn’t stay there waiting for an unpredictable thaw.  While I might think it would be funny to decorate the top of the car, I had to consider the children. It’s hard enough to be a preteen. Being driven around town with a tree stuck to your car can’t be a good image.

I tugged harder and the tree came loose.  With relief, I stood it against the carport wall and glanced at the top of the van.  It was covered with needles still frozen to the cold metal of the roof.  The van had sprouted a thick, even, covering of green hair.   

Leaving the van for contemplation later, the tree was hauled into the house, placed into the waiting stand and viewed from several feet away.  It was awful.  No turning around or adjusting could hide the fact that the thing was lacking in aesthetic appeal, from any angle.  One whole side was  pretty much flat.  Even the Grinch would have winced.  I couldn’t do that to my family.  A new tree had to be acquired — after the van thawed.

Then there was the year the fully decorated tree fell over breaking many dear family ornaments.  Righting and securing the tree, fully decorated, proved to be a stressful task involving ropes and screws affixed to living room woodwork.  We held our breath through the life of the holiday season.

And the year we were so busy with catering jobs and activities, we had no time to decorate at home.  After the last holiday party, we moved a fully decorated tree from our work to our house in the back of a pickup truck.  The truck was a festive red.  The trip was mercifully short and uneventful.  We didn’t encounter any spectators along the way.

The children are all grown and have their own homes and are making their own new stories.  Our house is satisfactorily festive, on time and uneventfully. Everyone will be here, all at the same time, for the whole weekend before Christmas.

Kind of makes me wish for the old days.