“Oh Christmas Tree, why do you torture me?”

I am a Christmas person. I married a girl who has always loved Christmas, and we have had 37 wonderful Christmas seasons together.

We hit it off right away. She was a swimmer; I was a runner. Neither of us smoked, we both had cats, and Christmas was very important to both of us. There were of course a few minor details to work out. She likes corn pudding and pizza; I like neither. She was a Red Skins fan; I wouldn’t watch a football game if they played it in our front yard. Working, saving money, and being frugal was important to both of us. After I screwed up the checkbook, she became the treasurer.

The month of December holds special meaning for both of us. We get caught up in the excitement of the Christmas season every year. As the decorations and lights went up we tried to see and appreciate the work of others as they decorated their homes and businesses. The ships at the Naval Base would decorate each year and allow everyone to drive along the waterfront to enjoy the thousands of colorful lights. Each city in Tidewater would have a parade and decorate their parks with lighted trees, and either a Santa house or a Nativity scene, complete with animals and people.

We of course exchanged gifts and enjoyed the seasonal food and drinks. We always found our way to church to give thanks for the greatest gift, JESUS.

When I was a child, Christmas always seemed to be on a fast track, the month of December seemed to evaporate. Each year I would draw a heavy line around all the days of our Christmas vacation. Each day I would put an X through that day as it “Passed Away”! Finally the day came when I had to suit up in school clothes, then climb aboard the big yellow “kid collector” for a ride to the rest of the school year at the Institution. It always seemed like two years before the next Christmas.

I recall that the Christmas tree in the living room and that poor unfortunate turkey in the dining room were the two main focal points of Christmas. Sadly, after Christmas that real tree was discarded. It lay out in the garden; the trunk and bare limbs resembled the turkey bones the cat had cleaned.

Each year of my now long life had one consistent theme that never changed. A string of Christmas lights always worked until they were on the tree, and that always caused family disharmony as every effort failed to fix them. In the old days of screw-in bulbs of many colors, if one bulb died, they all died! Most trees had 4-6 strings of lights with 20 lights per string. Trying to find that one dead bulb could rob you of your jolly, ho, ho, ho composure. It was the supreme test of the season.

Over the decades the lights became dependable strings (?) of little white lights that stayed on even if any number of them died. Then the artificial trees became pre-wired sections of three with folding limbs and almost real looking plastic green stuff. It was a modern-day miracle (?). Just open the box, stack the three sections on top of each other, plug the cords together and in 15 minutes the gadget from Taiwan was pretending to be a tree. For some reason putting that tree back in that box was never that easy.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving was dreary, so we decided to erect the three-year-old Christmas tree to brighten up the dark house. The limbs were spread and spaced out, and under the tree there was a layer of green plastic stuff – clever tree had learned to shed! Another way of saying “Designed Obsolescence”.

The sadness began when it was plugged in; only the two top sections lit up! The six-foot pretend tree looked funny except it was not funny! I replaced fuses and bulbs for the rest of the afternoon until my frustration got out of control. I yanked off the bottom two feet of the tree, made a duct tape bushing, and forced it into the tree stand! Now we have a nice four-foot tree from Taiwan with lights that work…and the annual Christmas tree light frustration battle is over! Just need to amend my Christmas wish list; I need a new roll of duct tape.