Shawnee News-Star Sunday Dec 17th 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg The little shortleaf pine tree was cut off at the base, lying lifelessly at the bottom of a ditch. The steep sides of the hill along the road that winds through the San Bois Mountains in eastern Oklahoma had just been mowed. The small tree, growing […]
Shawnee News-Star Sunday Dec 17th 2017
Becky Emerson Carlberg
The little shortleaf pine tree was cut off at the base, lying lifelessly at the bottom of a ditch. The steep sides of the hill along the road that winds through the San Bois Mountains in eastern Oklahoma had just been mowed. The small tree, growing all by itself, was collateral damage. This can't be, not at the time of the year we honor and pay homage to the evergreen tree. The little guy needed a good home, albeit temporary. My better half, who thought I was crazy, gingerly stepped down the slope, grabbed the tree and dragged it back to our cara car already crammed full of stuff. The car still had the new car smell. After a short rebellion and brief discussion, the pine tree was shoved above and over everything, scraping along the roof and dropping needles along its way. We hopped back into the car and were met with fresh pine scent and the tree top sticking out between us in the front seats.
I found an ancient tree stand in the well house at my parent's old home. By my calculations the solid welded metal structure was over 50 years old. The stand had large bent screws for anchoring tree trunks of various sizes, within reason, and a reservoir that held about a gallon of water. The stable artificial root base did not leak after the pine was wrenched into place and water poured around its exposed trunk. What craftsmanship.
The tree was brought into the house and placed on the short table under the front window. The unique silhouette needed..bulbs.. perhaps a few mini-lights. My mother had a strand of small twinkle lights hanging for years above the windows in the sunporch. The twinkle light went out long ago and was replaced with a regular mini-bulb. The lights now steadily glowed, but as I tried to take the old string down, part of the lights went out. No amount of twisting or coaxing would get them to go back on. The remaining lights that did cooperate well-lit the pine tree, so the unresponsive lights were draped behind the tree to the carpet. The decision was made to go purchase a small box of ornaments and another string of lights to replace those no longer in the sunporch.
Meanwhile I tried to reconstruct my mother's snow village in the corner. This was her pride and joy she set up every year and proclaimed 'It is now time to bask in the Christmas spirit.' The white tinsel, white bulbs that fit inside the miniature ceramic buildings, midget lamp posts and a few tiny decorations were arranged in a circle on a small round table. Some of the lights did not work, necessitating yet one more trip to the store.
The sunporch is now festive with its new string of little lights, the snow village is embedded within its white wonderland of fluff and the rescue tree is decorated with a few colorful balls, half-strand of lights and leftover white tinsel from the village.
The holiday season comes with mixed emotions for me. My dad had died in November and two years ago, ten days before Christmas, my mother left. I remember standing in her bathroom, holding her steady while she was so sick, and hearing the sirens and honking of vehicles as the Christmas Parade made its way through our small town. She tried valiantly to hold on until Christmas, but could not. My mother loved Christmas even though her own father had died Dec 14th seventy years before. She had been able to move the painful memories to the side and embrace the beauty and joy of the season. In a twist of fate, my mother died Dec 15th and Christmas for the rest of us was a struggle.
Last year we celebrated the Yule in Maryland, but this year we are in the process of rescuing the house from the ravages of time and have been spending much time repairing, replacing, repainting and renovating different parts. This is no small task as my folk's small humble abode encompasses over 2,000 square feet; a lot of house.
Thus, Thanksgiving was a test to determine what was in good operating order and what needed to be fixed. The gas oven is toast. The controller is out and Maytag no longer produces them. No more turkeys to be cooked inside that stove. The now carpet-less wood floors need a truck-load of sandpaper followed by sealer. The bedrooms scream for patching and new paint. The plan is to first tackle the paint job and then finish the floors. The house will sparkle.
Which takes me back to this Christmas. It may be the last time the house sees my mother's take on Christmas, but I needed to set it up for some reason. The parade had been held the night before we arrived, but candy still littered the ground in places. Some towns out there still allow sweets to be thrown at parades. Walking to the house I collected wrapped peppermints, a handful of the small tootsie rolls, sealed jaw breakers, double bubble gum and one unbroken lemon head (in my books lemonheads rank right up there with red hots and butterscotch lifesavers.) Calories galore, enough to complete several tasks.
The trip back to Shawnee was through McAlester, up Indian Nation Turnpike and onto I-40. The median of Carl Albert Parkway in McAlester is turned into a spectacular light show this time every year. McAlester has done away with the multitude of stop lights down the main drag, and the elaborate Christmas display can be better enjoyed as one travels from one end of town to the other.
The little rescued pine stands proud at the front window in enough water to last a few weeks. It brings beauty, joy, and happiness during the Yule season. Trees are magnificent beings on this Earth. Treat all of them with great respect.