The Thunker - Sarah Donohoe

Christmas is only five days away. Rudolph is polishing up his red nose, thinking that perhaps Olive, the other reindeer, may find it attractive. Frosty can be found dusting off his old silk hat after spending the night in jail for jaywalking. Did he think he’d get away with it when the traffic cop hollered stop? Charlie Brown, now a Christmas tree farm owner, is thrilled that one pathetic little tree that couldn’t hold its needles put an end to the popularity of the aluminum Christmas tree in 1965. And Miss Fanny Bright is waiting for her Uber ride, hoping she doesn’t get upsot on her way to Whoville.

With five days left to get everything done, we’re busy too. But when the day winds down we put on our slippers, snuggle up under blankets and sip hot apple cider. We admire the stockings hanging from the mantle and gaze at the tree glowing with lights and ornaments, and our thoughts drift back in time to Christmases past.

Dan W., who has a cabin abutting the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, told me, "Some of our most enjoyable Christmases were the ones spent at the cabin in Colorado. We would have to walk in for over a mile to get to the cabin. The tree would come from out on the mountain from a small group of clustered trees and it would get decorated with paper chains and strings of popcorn and other homemade ornaments. On Christmas morning we would get one present each, too hard to haul in a mound of presents. The cabin would smell good with turkey in the oven along with all the trimmings. We would go out sledding first, then have Christmas dinner after. These are times our family will never forget. Now our kids are all married with families and we stay in Illinois. It’s too hard to hike in now that we are older. Our kids have gone out with their families at Christmastime a few times. Good memories.” [This sounds like it comes straight out of a Currier and Ives print, Dan. How fortunate you are! ]

Ann B. recalls her own less complicated time. "Ahhhhh for the simple,” she sighed. “We did not have Santa when the children were little. We concentrated on the birth. However five years later my nephew was born and Santa came roaring in…my nephew swore he believed until sophomore year in high school and our kids supported him totally!” [Ann, I still believe, and I know you do too. ]

John R. has good memories of family time at Christmas. “For the longest time, when I was young, my father and I would drive up Rist Canyon, west of Fort Collins, and select and cut a live fir tree in the mountains of a ranch that used to make money from the sale of the trees. (What did we pay? Eight dollars or so for the tree, a little more for some of the branches, lower down, from which my mother would make a wreath.) My mother would direct my sister and me in decorating the tree with ornaments she had bought through the years as she could afford them. Every ornament had a history, and she would tell us about its purchase. The most meaningful ornaments were the oldest, bell shapes cut from an egg carton, wrapped with aluminum foil so they were ‘Christmas bells.’

“‘Those were from our Christmas in 1945,’ she would say, ‘when we were just married and lived in Estes Park and couldn't afford to buy ornaments that first year.’ You get the picture. I still have those ornaments from all those years and remember her stories (not all her stories) of how they were acquired and why.” [Those old handmade ornaments are the best!]

Debbie S.’s family acquired their tree in quite a different way. “Grandmother Mary lost her husband before my parents married so she went to work as a housemother for the KU Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, back when frat houses loved their moms-away-from-home.

“Our tree always came very late in December—bigger perhaps than most—as it was recycled from the frat house since Grandmother was the housemother there. (We never knew what condition it might be in.) We were recycling before it was cool!” [Debbie, were you able to recycle the tree afterward as well?]

And then Michael S., after reading my column last week about Christmas decorations that induce thoughts of stocking coal, brings us back to the joys of modern Christmas with this: “Don’t you think looking at a woman’s leg lamp puts you in the Christmas spirit? Oh, and thanks for reminding me of Mariah Carey’s song. Now I have the gift that keeps on giving running through my head. Have you ever done a column on removing unwanted songs set on auto-repeat in our brains?” [Michael, allow your leg lamp to lead you on your quest for an answer to this question. Let me know what you find out and I’ll share it.]

My journalist role model Nancy H. also commented on my column about decorating for the holidays: “Do not disparage that person with Wildcats in purple on his or her roof. To those of us who bleed purple, are tattooed purple (yes, me), and thrill at the sight of purple, it is just a nice addition to the holiday season. I mean, red and green can get tiresome and purple is a royal color (‘Once in royal David's city. .. ’)

“If this remark seems incredibly biased that's because it is.

“Have a great Christmas with your wonderful family whom we all know and love through your columns.”

To Nancy, Michael, Debbie, John, Dan, and all of my readers, may your holiday memories—and decorations, whatever they may be—bring you much joy this season and always!

You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address, donoholdt@gmail.com.

© 2019 Sarah Donohoe

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