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The Return Of The 10’ Christmas Tree

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Part One

I admit it. By the time the boys were teenagers, my enthusiasm for decorating for the holidays, putting up a large Christmas tree, hanging lights on the house, and later taking it all down and putting it away again was so minuscule it could only be detected through a microscope.

This was eventually followed by the day when I sold the family house and, for the first time in decades, I no longer owned a house, hose, lawn mower, wheel barrow, outside holiday lights, or an extension ladder.  Of course I paid for packing and security locker storage of the indoor holiday decorations we had bought together, along with all of those Halloween, Easter, and Thanksgiving items the kids had made in school. Those were of obvious historic and sentimental importance, weren’t they? In the meantime, Liberation! The “Urban Condo Period” of my life had begun.

Then Linda came along and everything changed hue. Throughout our wonderful urban condo years together, holiday decorating totaled:

  1. a wreath on the front door
  2. extra candles Linda placed around strategically
  3. a lovely but reusable 4’ decorator-designed tree I bought at a charity auction.

Decorating for the holidays became a 20-minute process.  Putting everything away took 15 minutes.

Eventually I was struck by the we’re-too-young-to-get-too-comfortable-so-let’s-go-challenge-ourselves-while-we’re-still-young-enough bug. Developmental Psychologists who believe in walking their talk will tend, as a part of integrity, to do these things. The idea was that if we could move to a really well-selected place where we knew no one and then build a great life for ourselves within 5 years, nothing was going to happen to us for the rest of our lives that we couldn’t handle together. The theory has since proved to be sound in practice.

To begin our challenge to ourselves, we built a template of great-fit characteristics. We spent 3 years looking for a place that would work for both and each of us. It had to be someplace where we could pursue our interests and continue our work with no desire to “retire”.

The 5-year experiment began when we found a great-fit area on the opposite coast, bought a house we loved, and moved across the country.   We kept our city condo as a fallback, renting it instead of selling it. All of our good friends were supportive. Several of them still think we’re crazy but have finally given up waiting for us to move back.

Our 1st Holiday Season in the new house was limited to decorations A thru C above from our Urban Condo Period. The following year, to our great surprise, we acquired a 10’ Christmas tree for our living room which we happily spent 2 full days decorating with our large assortment of tree and home decorations (fresh from security storage after all those years). We had tree ornaments my parents collected throughout my childhood, Linda’s parents’ ornaments from the earliest days of their marriage, ornaments we had each acquired through the years, and ornaments we had given each other. We did have to sort through and purge the junk and, I admit it again, dump much of that stuff the kids had made years ago that no longer seemed to be of such obvious historic and sentimental value. Actually I wondered why I had kept all that stuff they didn’t care about. In the end the tree looked great and we had plenty of ornaments for all 10’. We bought more anyway. And we have looked forward to doing all of it again every holiday season.

Part Two

Now we’re approaching the 10th Holiday Season of our 5-year experiment. A full decade of life can make a big difference in preferences and priorities for all of us. We have benefited and prospered in our now-not-so-new location and have no regrets about having made the big leap. It’s still lovely after all this time to be back in a real house with bigger rooms, higher ceilings and lots of space and light. We enjoy having room for our professional work and special, personal projects and interests without having to put them away in a closet or drawer all the time.  We have great confidence in the quality of the experience and skills we’ve accrued over these years.

What brings all of this up? The holidays do. It’s Appreciation Time for all who have become part of our lives as well as for the depth and breadth of our friendships.

I concede the 10” tree is looking taller and more daunting than it did 10 Christmases ago when we bought it, but it really goes with the house and who we are in it. Of course, we have the added inspiration of living in this neighborhood. Ours is one of the few houses that won’t have imaginative outdoor holiday lights. Down the street you’ll find a 16’ Frosty made of industrial-strength chicken wire with a gazillion lights. For counterpoint there’s a lighted Menorah in one yard and a house where not one bush or tree has escaped some form of seasonal electrification.

This all makes a 10’ tree in our living room seem like a really happy tradition for Linda and me. None of us knows what the future will bring or what decisions we’ll face. The day will come when a desire for simplification will overtake us, and we’ll be on to the next residential period of our lives.  After 18 years together we know our lives, like most people’s, won’t unroll like a ribbon in a straight line. We’ve kept our 4’ decorator tree all these years as a happy remembrance and just in case we need it again someday in smaller quarters.

Our holiday commitment to ourselves and to our friends is to open-eyed “normalcy” in a world currently sloshing through changes we hadn’t imagined and can’t control.  In the “spirit of normal” our tree is decorated with memories, hopes, good intentions, and sincere best wishes to all of you and yours for happy times during the Holidays and throughout the coming year.

Blessings from our home to you and yours.

6 responses to “The Return Of The 10’ Christmas Tree”

  1. Gerri says:

    Your tree looks beautiful! In the midst of downsizing I was trying to decide how much of my Christmas stuff to keep. After reading this I am not going to go too crazy on the purging; I may regain some of my enthusiasm for those ornaments and decorations again someday.

    Happy Holidays and New Year to you George. I am glad you chose to make our community your new home.

    • George Schofield says:

      Thank you, Gerri.

      Since you three are embarking on a big residential adventure, it seems to me that your openness is a huge Christmas gift you are giving yourselves The roadway of our lives is seldom a continually straight line. Sometimes I wish there were life passage signs that say DIP or HAIRPIN TURN AHEAD or PAY ATTENTION or NEXT OFFRAMP IN 87 YEARS.

      Of course, the roadway and map metaphor we use for life planning really doesn’t work anymore. Given the morphing of where we are, the instability of destinations we want to think of as permanent, and the unpredictability of routes, we are needing new images and language. At the moment I am favoring Shoes as the new metaphor. Shoes? Yes! We have to have several pair and know when to wear which as part of our getting around each day. I think this is increasingly analogous to life. We’re going to have to develop/acquire new sets of skills and awarenesses (the right shoe for the right situation) and know when to use which in facing the results of our choices and situations we didn’t select.

      Keep the best – and potentially most useful – of your past. Let the rest of it go with appreciation. Easy to type. Sometimes difficult to do. Seldom happens with guaranties.

      Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and, especially, the right shoes at the right time as you and yours discover what 2017 has to offer.

      George

  2. Sue Seiter says:

    George, your 10′ tree looks gorgeous! Here’s my tree story 2016. This is my first year as a widow at Christmas — and the first year that our home does not have a fresh-cut Christmas tree. I am headed to Seattle for the holiday so it just didn’t seem to make sense. A week ago, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, the lady without a Christmas tree. My daughter said, “Mom, go buy a tree!” So I did — a 9′ artificial tree — and it looks really good all lighted up on my lanai. It took 30 minutes to assemble and another hour to decorate. Done! Happy! Grateful!

    Moral of the story: Traditions change, but Christmas will always be Christmas and a time to appreciate faith, family and friends. Merry Christmas to you and Linda!

    • George Schofield says:

      Hi Sue

      What lovely story, all the more important because you and Libby seized the opportunity to make it a mentoring/learning moment. First a date after so many married years and now a solo Christmas tree. What will Sue do next?

      You and Libby demonstrated something i have been writing about: mentoring is no longer uni-directional wisdom passed down from the older people to younger people. Our world and lives and knowledge are now moving and morphing at such speed that no one, regardless of age, can know or realize it all. All generations are going to need to mentor all other generations. This means, of course, that we have to set our uni-directional orientation aside and assume we have to be “available” to seriously consider and learn from the wisdom of age-dissimilar others.

      As a believer in the importance of ritual, it seems to me that Christmas especially deserves honoring as a time of consistent kindness, thoughtfulness and engagement. Putting up the tree is definitely a ritual and a statement of engagement. Having it in the house, it seems to me, also provides a visual reminder to place kindness and thoughtfulness – including towards ourselves – at the forefront of our thinking and behavior.

      Linda and I wish you and Libby and David and their families a splendid Christmas and a very happy 2017.

      George

  3. Jari Searns says:

    Hi George,

    What a beautiful story…as I read it it made me both happy and sad. Christmas was always such a special time for me as I was growing up. I loved the colors, the lights, the Christmas carols, the cookies (especially the gingerbread cookies), going to Midnight Mass, opening all the presents and seeing my Dad somewhat happy…as most of the time he was just grumpy.

    Then when I met my Husband and feel madly in love and found out he was Jewish, I chose to convert and never really questioned that decision, either then or now; however, I must admit that at this time of year I do become just a tad nostalgic and I do reflect often on those happy memories of Christmas as I was growing up. I have determined that it was never really the religious aspects of this Holiday, just those traditions that were always so very special.

    I sometimes think about decorating for Hanukkah, but you know, Hanukkah is really kind of a minor holiday in the Jewish faith and that just never seemed “comfortable” for me. So Rick has come up with a perfect solution…every Christmas season we take long rides all over the Western New York area to look at and admire the beautiful Christmas decorations and this year there is a home in Buffalo that won a National prize for decorating (that prize was $50,000)…I can hardly wait to see it!!!

    • George Schofield says:

      Hi Jari. What a great solution. If you can’t have it at least you can visit it. I think happy and sad are both an inherent part of Christmas but, it seems to me, they frequently come together as an alternating package. See you in very late December. George

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