Saturday, December 13, 2014

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ~ "Five Views of a Christmas Tree" ~ View One

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"Now, the tree is decorated with bright merriment, and song, and dance, and cheerfulness. And they are welcome. Innocent and welcome be they ever held, beneath the branches of the Christmas Tree, which cast no gloomy shadow! . . . I hear a whisper going through the leaves. 'This, in commemoration of the law of love and kindness, mercy and compassion. This, in remembrance of Me!'"  

~ Charles Dickens

The publishing may be done for the year, but not the writing.  The writing never ends, thankfully.

Inspired by Charles Dickens 1850 short story A Christmas Tree, in which a man recounts the journey of life guided through the boughs and decorations of a festive fir, I have taken five views of the role that these iconic expressions of joy and celebration have played in my own life.  I've written a five part tribute of my own. I'll be publishing it, by section or "View" between now and the 23rd.

Here's the first - Enjoy!

Five Views of a Christmas Tree
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

View One

It was a source of magic and wonder. Loading endless vinyl albums onto the big console stereo, I contentedly tolerated the drop and whir that interrupted the rapturous music that seemed to soar around the living room, filling up any cracks in the floors, the walls, or in me as I sat there in the dark.

The colored lights made elliptical ghosts on the ivory plaster walls.  In those days, they didn’t blink and twinkle on their own.  They were good old dependable c7s. One of the jobs I was allotted as a young child was taking them out of their sectioned cardboard nests, and putting them away when the season was over.  There was great emphasis placed on making sure the colors were varied and consistent as the long strands were loaded and tested for individual lights not up to the rigors of another holiday season.  To me they looked like vibrant eggs, and there are few childhood thrills that equaled the first moment that they burst into illuminated glory each year.  There is still something about holding a c7 in my hand that brings back soul-stirring memories of cocoa and butter cookies decorated with colored sugars of red and green.

I was allowed, with supervision, to place my few ornaments amidst the soon-to-be-enchanted branches.  There were ornaments that I was not to touch, their delicate fragility incapable of withstanding my young holiday exuberance.  I had been banned from putting tinsel on the tree.  Mom had a very specific method which I never could master.  It required patience and repeatedly dragging the smooth silver strands over each branch, caressing it until the tree glimmered with a natural artistry.  A fan of random beauties, I was discovered one year flinging fists full of tinsel at the tree, and a judgment was passed that remains in place to this very day.

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I did not need parental supervision to appreciate the tree in its full glory, though.  Anytime after 7pm was prime time to load the stereo and nestle in a chair to get lost in the aura of the tree.  What did I see?  I saw everything that a Christmas wonderland could offer.  The air from the furnace made the tinsel dance, and the colored ghosts shimmered as shadowed ornaments danced across the walls.  Inside the tree itself I could let my mind wander as I traveled from branch to branch in the Lilliputian wonder of my imagination among the colored glass, painted wood, and glitter.  Enthralled I swung around each hanging candy cane, the last decoration to be placed on the tree each year.  The color and the motion made the tree sing as if the stereo was not generating the music, but the tree was drawing the music from it whether it willed it or not.

I explored the realms of storybook tales: forests full of dancing snowflakes, charmed valleys where the animals spoke, vast mountain ranges the colors of flavored ices, the fabled kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy and, of course, Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole.

It was not hard, back in those years of delight and wonder, to imagine Saint Nick and his reindeer-guided sleigh visiting an entire planet of children in one, single night.  That such a thing could be possible was beyond question.  For who could witness the present enchantment of a fully decorated Christmas tree in a darkened living room, and not believe in the reality of magic in the world?


Don't forget to give the gift of stories, this holiday season . . . to peruse my conveniently "Stocking-Sized" works, please visit my Amazon Author Page.

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