The temperature has plummeted, unbelievably-annoying Christmas songs are polluting the airwaves, Black Friday is almost upon us and so I felt inspired to share an early holiday post… on second thought, let’s scratch the politically correct BS, shall we? I realize Canada is a great melting pot, but unlike Starbucks, I refuse to alter a lifetime of habits and say “the holiday season” instead of what it actually is in Canada… Say it with me…
The Christmas season!
Whew… I don’t know about you, but I feel better. Let’s proceed, shall we?
As Chevy Chase demonstrates every holiday season, the best intentions aren’t always enough when it comes to creating a picture-perfect Christmas.
Much like Clark Griswold, my late father-in-law, Jack, once took it upon himself one year to recreate the memory of the perfect Christmas that he had carried with him since childhood.
Jack’s childhood was reflective of the era he grew up in; his father was a Man’s Man who could work sixteen hours a day, wrestle a bear during his walk home from work and still manage to find the time and energy to hoist his six kids up on his shoulders – simultaneously – without breaking a sweat. His mother could keep a house immaculate, nourish her family with mouthwatering meals, get them all off on their respective ways in the morning and still manage to reach out to friends and neighbors in need. The woman made June Cleaver look like Roseann Barr – after a two-week bender.
Jack’s parents certainly weren’t rich, but unlike many families of the time, their children never went without at Christmas. They always had gifts under the tree, but more importantly, they came to embrace and value the importance of family. And so when Jack matured and had his own family, he focused his energies on devising a plan to ensure his family’s holiday traditions would continue.
The key component to that plan? The ultimate tree.
Store-bought trees are strictly taboo when constructing holiday perfection, so my father-in-law found himself a big, beautiful, green-as-Kermit-tree and set it up in the family room for his wife, Rose, to decorate to perfection. Before she could do that, however, it fell to him to maintain a tree that stood straight as an arrow – no matter what.
“My dad always used sand to keep to the tree straight, so we couldn’t knock it over no matter how many times we ran into it while tearing around the living room. But I didn’t have any sand.” Jack recalled. “So I improvised.”
And that improvisation has become the stuff of family legend.
As the story goes, Jack walked into the living room one cold December morning expecting to cast his eyes upon the Ultimate Christmas Tree, a sight magnificent enough to bring Charles Dickens to his knees. What he found, however, was a sight horrifying enough to send Chevy Chase screaming all the way back to Saturday Night Live.
His perfect tree was gone and in its place stood a brown-as-dirt wooden pole, fully-decorated but without a single needle hanging from its limp, naked branches.
“I just don’t understand it.” Jack told his father. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“A real tree needs plenty of water. Did you keep water in the pail, son?” was his father’s only question.
“Water?” Jack was dumbfounded. In his zeal he had focused solely on keeping the tree straight. “I didn’t put any water in the pail, Dad.”
“You didn’t put anything in there?”
“Sure I did!” Jack proudly announced. “I put cement in there to keep the tree straight!”
And that was the moment, kids, that my father-in-law learned water was the real difference between an artificial tree and the real deal.
“You big dummy!” his father bellowed, “You need to keep water in there or the tree will die!
He may not have created the perfect Christmas he had envisioned in his mind, but Jack went one better: he created a timeless family holiday legend/memory.
Merry NaBloPoMo Christmas, everyone.
See you in the lobby, kids…