December 13th…“HOW DID YOU DECORATE YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOME DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON BACK ON THE FARM?”
There he was, peeking at me from his lair among the pine-needled branches of our Christmas tree. “Mr. Gator” was nestled into his place of annual honor as one of our unique Christmas tree decorations. Where he came from and why was he elevated from the swamp to a Christmas tree?, that, I’ll never know. But there, in his red n yellow articulated plastic splendor rested “Mr. Gator” for another Christmas season within the heights of our family tree.
To this very day, over half a century later, I still favor and desire the peaceful glow and deep colors of our old-fashioned string of Christmas lights that were foundational on the bare branches of what was soon to become a tower of treasures. With every bauble brought forth from its tissued cardboard coach, the Christmas tree light bulbs were clipped in proper spiral elevations of our evergreen elegance.
A sweetness of seasonal royalty surrounded each crafted and delicate bulb ornament. Mother would always caution us as to the fragility of the holiday heirlooms that we were now directing our hands so as to hang them in their best position of display on our green mountain of merriment. Mother instilled in us a sense of awe for these fragile glass baubles that were first created in Germany. It’s possible that she and Dad had had these tiny colored Christmas treasures from their early days of marriage or were slowly acquired over the early years of our older brother and sister. Either way, we obeyed her cautious supervision so that these moments could happen year after year for our entire family to enjoy.
The last phase of this holiday decoration drama was the one that taxed the most patience of our little child minds. Tinsel was to be gently placed in single strands on each inch of each branch so that it would hang in its regal mane like a flowing stream of icicles off of a frozen roof line. After about ten minutes of this, I for one, was inclined to start tossing the aluminum man-made icicles in clumps onto the branches just to get the job over with. Of course, I was aptly chastised by Mom and family for this horrific breach of the holiday decorating “laws”.
America was, and still is, in love with plastic. So, to help take our festive Christmas spirits to the outside of our home were red plastic wreaths that had a single, red-bulbed candle in the center. We’d tap in a small nail to the wooden frame of our old Living Room window and hang the wreaths to the south and east windows. Coming from the barn each evening, I could enjoy the glow of the red candle bulb AND the red halo that was illuminated by that bulb there in our window.
Ol’ plastic Santa came out of his yearly hiding to be with us, too, on those fun occasions. Although he could have been sent to the top of a tree, I seem to recall that he graced another one of our house windows and was then plugged in to glow out to the frozen farm yard that “Christmas was here!!”
Like any farmer boy, when decorating was completed, it was time to help Dad milk our herd of Holsteins. When chores were completed and we got in from the barn, Mom had her usual delicious supper for us all to enjoy. After supper, I asked permission to plug in our Christmas tree lights. Being the little wiggle worm I was, I would lay on my back with head towards the tree and begin to wiggle my little boy body under the lowest branches of the Christmas tree so I could gaze up into the spectacular world of holiday color and lights. I became entranced by the warm glow of primary colored strings of lights that lent a whole new spectrum of beauty to the glass Christmas bulbs, hanging Nativity scenes and gift boxes that had already begun to accumulate at the base of our Tannenbaum. It was a dream world of color and wonderment for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.