Christmas In July

Today’s guest post is by Ziggy Blum, of Oregon, USA. She was raised by her grandmother, who was 52 when she took over parenting duties. Ziggy called her grandparents “Mom” and “Dad”

A great many of my formative memories involve Christmas and its trappings, and this is partially because Mom celebrated Christmas for a long time every year. Christmas shopping could occur at any time – she was always thinking about it. After she died, I unpacked several boxes marked “Christmas Presents,” which included bulk quantities of ceramic music boxes with cardinals and bluebirds sculpted on them, cheap sets of knives, cheaper sets of tools, olive-wood salad-serving sets, little plastic dolls not at all suitable for anyone in the family, and other little trinkets bought from a variety of random catalogs.

Mom believed in one-size-fits-all gifts, and always preferred a lot of little eclectic gifts to one or two major ones – though one memorable year I received mostly a horse and a saddle, and was not disappointed.

“Oh, that would make a nice present for someone!” was her rallying cry.

There was an unfailing ritual we carried out every year when we went to buy Christmas trees. Yes, trees: our house (in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio) had two large picture windows; and while my Dad preferred an austere tree with only white lights and clear glass ornaments, my Mom liked a tree “all littered with stuff” as a neighbor boy once put it – lights of all colors and sizes and shapes, ornaments from incredibly teeny to bough-bendingly large, with the glue still drying or falling apart from a century of use – the more the merrier.

One year in the 70’s they compromised: Dad got a tree in the dining room, which he trimmed with tiny white lights and icicles, and Mom her own tree in the living room. On several occasions, a little three-foot tree was bought for me to have in my room as well.

This was Ohio, and we bought cut trees – it was a twenty-minute drive to the tree lot, and we sang Christmas carols without drawing a breath in between all the way whether we wanted to or not – I was an “only grandchild,” but not infrequently one of my aunts or a friend of mine was pressed into the errand. “12 Days of Christmas” every time, as I recall (and every time we sang this carol, even if everyone was very careful, Mom always found someone to correct: “It’s not calling bird!” she said severely. “It’s collie bird. It means a blackbird.”

“Mom, no one said ‘calling bird.”

“I’m sure I heard someone say ‘calling bird’. It’s not calling bird…’” and so on).

Over time, the trees stayed up longer and longer. They were always up until January: my birthday is January 15, and hers was the 14th, so there was no taking The Tree (the one in the living room, anyway) down until then, but that was just the beginning. Some years we added ornaments to the tree for Valentine’s Day, and eventually Easter and St. Patrick’s Day had their own ornaments as well. People would screech to a halt outside our house in May at the sight of the proudly-lit tree in the living room window.

The great year was when – and I am not making this up – we added Fourth of July ornaments to our unusually long-lived pine.

Usually the trees were tinder-dry by March. This pair of trees was indefatigable. Dad’s white-trimmed dining room tree bit the dust sometime about April, but Mom’s living room tree, littered with stuff, stayed green and pliable for week upon week. Fourth of July came and went, and Dad finally put his foot down. The tree was untrimmed and moved outside. In moving it we found it had put out roots – pale, long, thin roots. A Christmas tree with a serious will to live, which apparently loved being a Christmas tree.

Mom was naturally deeply affected by this. She went to the extent of consulting a psychic who recommended a blend of sand and loam, which, theoretically, the tree had requested. Mom did everything in her power to keep that tree alive, but in vain. Over the summer it finally gave up its needly ghost, but Mom recalled it as her favorite among the many trees she enjoyed over her long life.

I have retained the custom of keeping a tree up until my birthday (as well as the tiniest ornament – a wee Chinese bobbin of a doll), but none of my trees seem to last as long as any of Mom’s, even though I live in Oregon and have occasionally cut my own. I think it was all in her attitude.

- Ziggy Blum © 2009
Ravenland Arts

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