This time of year I miss my father even more than usual. As we get closer to Christmas, I think of how it was always a difficult time for him. He became very quiet and sad, depressed I guess we would say now. His mother died in December, and he missed her as we got closer to Christmas.
I remember Mother saying to him, “You have to pick yourself up and do this for HER. I won’t let you ruin HER Christmas.” It took me a while to figure out that HER was me.
Daddy, to his credit, managed to pull himself together each year. Mother and Daddy would argue about when to get the tree–he always wanted to wait until Christmas Eve, convinced it was a fire hazard, and Mother wanted it earlier so we could enjoy it.
I felt his cloud of depression beforehand, but we would go out into the fields and pick out a cedar tree to cut down for our Christmas tree. Mother exhorted us to get one that didn’t have a fork in the top (a common flaw of cedar trees). Daddy would cut it down, and we dragged it home, put it in a bucket of water in the garage or back yard, and let it soak up some water before taking it inside.
Nothing smells better than a fresh cut cedar tree. the scent is sweeter and stronger than a pine tree. And of course the trees we have now, cut in October in Michigan or Canada, coated in fireproofing spray and fake green, have no real smell to speak of. A cedar tree smells like a wooden cedar chest, only green and alive.
Once we started decorating Daddy started to cheer up a bit. I still have some of the strings of old lights we used, and the battered glass balls. He did his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve–old southern tradition, because you didn’t have the money to shop until then (unless you were doing layaway at Montgomery Wards).
These days I have a fake tree, since I’m usually away at my sister’s house for a few days, and I don’t like to leave a live one to get dry. But I usually get a live green wreath or table arrangement. I need that smell of fresh greens to make the holidays real.