A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Twas the night before Christmas and there was no tree.

The son and daughter-in-law’s plan was to get the tree on the weekend before Christmas, a day or so before we arrived from 800 miles away, but that was the weekend of the ice storm and so the outing to get a tree didn’t happen.

We arrived at their Vermont home late Sunday night, after the ice was done forming, but the back roads were still a bit iffy. Besides, we’d stopped a lot, including at Niagara Falls (who can resist showing Really Big Water to a three-year-old?), so our Sunday drive made for a very, very long day. And, although getting a tree was on the Monday agenda, planning and shopping for the communally cooked meals for the next few days seemed more important. That took all our first-day energy.

That is how picking up a Christmas tree got delayed till the day before Christmas, which is, after all, a traditional time to put up a tree.

The problem was, all the Christmas trees in the outdoor lots–and all Christmas trees growing in fields, and all trees, period–were gorgeously glazed with ice and snow. Pretty to look at outdoors but as soon as you took them indoors they would become a melting mess. And so the plan was to go to one of the big-box stores and pick up a sheltered, dry tree.

Before everyone else was up Christmas Eve morning, Vic and I set out to find such a tree at such a place. But many other people had had the same idea and the stores were all out of trees. We picked up two 99-cent wreaths and some flowers and returned to a delicious breakfast of Swedish pancakes, prepared by daughter-in-law Linnea.

Meanwhile, everybody else had also been thinking about the tree dilemma and, smarter than us, had called around rather than driven around and learned there were no trees to be had. But Linnea had also called a local florist and located balsam branches.

So after breakfast the young folks went out, brought back boughs of balsam, and, after much discussion of vases and holders and other means to improvise a tree, assembled an impressive, bush-like arrangement and brought it in to the living room.

While Linnea decorated the “tree” with the “help” of the three-year old, son-in-law Joseph put garlic chicken in the oven and Grandpa and Grandma relaxed and stayed out of all discussions and decisions. Some of the family adjourned to naps and computers.

All of the essential ornaments–though none of the heavy ones–were in place except for two little owls. When the first owl went on the tree, the whole arrangement tipped over, came apart, and spilled water all over the presents.

At this point all available persons helped with the cleanup, the encouragement, and the ideas for restructuring. In short order we had reassembled an arrangement, less artistic but more stable than the first one. Linnea remarked, “Well, this one really does look like a Charlie Brown Christmas.” She posted a picture on Facebook and somebody commented it looked like it was asking for a hug.

But it would do. Outside the trees and bushes bore their own frigid ornaments of berries, ice, and snow.

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