Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Live Vs Artificial

I think everyone knows by now that Mac (Wallace to His Family) was in the Navy for thirty years, which carried with it a lot of sea duty. Sea duty should have had the word "over" included, since the ship(s) mainly went far away...they didn't run out five or six miles and play war games then back in time for dinner. Even when they were in port, he often had "Duty" which meant he had to stay on the ship overnight at least once a week. He averaged six months at sea every year. Sometimes more. That's the thing so many people don't understand about Military families, it doesn't matter if there's a war going on or not, families are going to be separated. Well, the first Christmas that the ship was at sea at Christmas, the boys were devastated. Not see Daddy at Christmas? You're kidding, right? Right? Well, sadly I was not kidding. No Daddy at Christmas, it was 1977 so no Internet...just snail mail that could sometimes take up to two weeks to arrive from port to home or home to port. We had always had a live tree and I was adamant that we would not have an artificial tree. Ever. My reasons were mainly that they didn't look real. I had other reasons, but that was the main one. So I've got the beautiful live cedar tree all decorated by December 15th, water in the basin of the tree holder, plop an aspirin in (don't ask me, Mama always did it, I figured she knew). Every few days, add water, add presents, feel needles...sing a carol. The ship was due in the end of December, so I figured the tree would still look pretty good by the time he got home. Christmas came and went, so did the new year, no ship, no Mac. January 12th and I add more water, more aspirin, no carol this time, but a prayer instead. "Dear God please don't let my tree die this week". Like it wasn't already as dead as the proverbial hammer. And dry. There's Mac's presents laid neatly beneath a quickly drying cedar tree and I'm imploring the boys "for heaven's sake, don't brush against the Christmas tree, the needles are getting dry." It's now February 1st, the ship has once more been delayed. The boys are standing in the living room with a couple of their friends and Craig (Wallace's friend) says "you've still got your Christmas tree up." That was all, just you've still got your Christmas tree up. Of course by this time it looked more like a Christmas stick. With lights. "We're waiting for the boys' daddy to get home" I explained. To a five year old. "Oh," was all he said. By this time of course, we no longer turned the lights on, I was afraid of fire. It was no longer even plugged in. When the word came down that the ship was now due on February 14th I was so relieved I was nearly sick. I had taken to sleeping on the sofa next to the tree to keep the cat out of it so that it might have a semblence of shape and a few needles when the big day finally arrived. Women go through an awful lot to make Christmas work for everyone. In my mind, it was still the Christmas season and no one could convince me otherwise. Wow, what a day February 14th was, what a wonderful Valentine's day it turned out to be as we drove to D&S piers to greet the ship and all I could think of was the pile of needles on the floor , the cat crouching in the middle of the tree, so by now I was certain what remained of the tree was now covering the packages that contained some lovely winter wear and here we were fast approaching spring...after arriving home, I quickly plugged in the tree for the brief time it would take to shove packages into Mac's hands. He opened them, oohed and ahh'ed and I jumped up, unplugged the lights and grabbed the tree and quickly dragged it out the front door and dumped it unceremoniously onto the front yard where it burst into flames before every one's amazed eyes. I swear I could smell the cedar firing up as we sat in the floor. I don't think I've ever moved quite so fast, in my life. As for my opinion of artificial trees, no longer a live cedar snob, I agree with all and sundry...don't they look natural?


Carol said...

Hi Sandi, what is a 'W' k?
Oh Sandi how awfal not to be able to speak to him for so long.
I would have died by then I am sure.
My hubby was on Poilce duty when the Brixton Riots kicked off, in the '80's. We had no way of contact - no mobile phones then! I watched the terrible news on the TV and cried. I paced the floor for hours.
I started to feel sick.
I cried, had palpertaions....babes were aleep in bed.
When he finally came home I cried and hugged him so. I was scared that I would never see him again and that was just one whole day....but the TV news showing the riots was very bed.
He was also on duty when the Lewisham riots started he did not have any protection then as riot shields had not been introduced, he only had his top hat on and a truncheon. He only got hit on the head two times though by house bricks!!

Lynn @The Vintage Nest said...

Hi Sandi, I would love to wrap your presents. That was an amazing story. I have been an artificial tree lover for years after one Christmas having to replace our dried out Christmas tree. I swore then no more live trees. Then when we moved out here to the country in 1999 the land was covered in gorgeous old cedar trees. So we cut one down, dragged it to the house, moved out half the furniture in the family room and put that tree up. Cedars smell so good but they are prickly and even though I kept tons of water in the tree well that tree still dried out so badly. The day after Christmas we took it out and every single piece of green was left on my carpets. What a mess. more real trees for me. The fresh wreaths and roping still make the house smell good. xoxo Lynn

Mary said...

As much as I get a bit cheesed off with the "old man" i too would have done everything to keep the tree going to help celebrate Christmas!! It must have been a difficult life with him away so much.

Unknown said...

Hi Sandi,

How hard that must have been for you but this is a really great story. Have a good evening.

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

Hi Sandi,
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I have never had to go through that, but I so totally understand you. My heart went out to you even thought that was years ago. I am so grateful for our Americans in uniform, doing their duty through war and peace. I am just as grateful for people like you, who kept the home fires burning (and the tree from NOT burning). You are my hero....seriously.

Anonymous said...

What a great story. I always had to have fresh..i just loved the smell. it got to where my tree went up earlier each year and also leaving it for weeks to visit mom i started to worry. now i have fake, but yes the big ones look alot better than they did years ago.

Vee said...

LOL! Oh dear heavens! We had friends who were waiting for trucker dad to arrive back home well into February. I remember thinking how deranged the poor lady was to have her tree up so long. Hahaha...

Now you have a very funny story to tell and a fun memory!

Did you see that Judy at My Front Porch had the perfect answer to your question on her blog today?

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh Sandi, we don't know whether to laugh or cry so we are doing both, right here in our kitchen! The removalists think we are nuts! Hey guess what, we are getting a real tree this year lol!!!! For the first time in years for our new home, but it's not a cedar !!! Hugs J & J

Anonymous said...

Us again, forgot to say we can just picture you and Arianna reading Charlotte's Web, such a sweet sight to see. Let us know what she thinks :) J & J xo

Sophie Honeysuckle said...

Sandi, I don't know how you managed and got through thatlong waiting time!! You are definitely a very strong lady! But what a wonderful Valentines you must have had!! And I agree with you about the trees..

Terri Steffes said...

Wow, in 1977 I was graduating from HS and didn't realize what people were giving up for our country.

I love my artificial trees because I am allergic to pine!

Tammy said...

I love a live tree and I was just looking at the pictures of the last one we had in KY...we were all sick as dogs with allergies until the thing was removed from our house...artificial from then on out!!

When we see Christmas trees still in windows long after the season, we figure it is someone awaiting a loved one from the military to get is nice to know you confirm that fact!

Have a great day!

Susie Q said...

WE too have an artificial one due to
allergies and pets. The real ones they mess with, faux one they don't So, we must do it!

I think you know we were Navy for 27 years. Oh how this post resonates with me. Those first years...and you WELL remember what this was like, there were no computer sites and phone reception and the like on board ship. Had to wait for a port call or letters that took forever. OR, in an emergency, a Red Cross wire.

I have one Christmas story to tell...I had planned to do it later but nay link to you and tell it today.
It always makes me cry yet it WAS a happy holiday in many ways...

Hugs to you dear Sandi.


Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

That is a wonderful story! Living far apart is nothing like it used to be 'back in the day'. I am old enough to remember snail mail!
I am glad to hear the tree was outside when it went up in smoke... I was afraid that was where you were headed.
Christmas memories!!!!