Tour of a Christmas Tree: 60 Years of Memories Cluttered through the Branches

I sat beside the ignored Christmas tree this morning, finishing a novel I’d finally gotten around to, Chaim Potok’s The Gift of Asher Lev. I was hit once again by the father-son nostalgia hammer as the dad is walking his 5-year old son through the forest of his childhood vacation spot.  They stopped beside a large oak tree with a low branch he used to lay upon and stare up at the sky through the branches.

I was reminded of my dad sharing with his fourth grade boy his favorite thing to do at Christmas time when he was my age–lying beneath the tree and looking straight up through the tinsel and lights.

I looked over my shoulder to our beautiful tree, chosen with great care by the four of us in our annual trip to Clarkston’s Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm, smiling how that unique tree looks like all of our other trees once it receives our clutter of ornaments. It’s a running gag with our friends Rob and Trish how our “busy” tree is compared to the color-coordinated lights and ornaments often found in malls–“and tasteful people’s homes.”

In terms of actually “trimming”, I handle the lights and strings of wooden beads Patrice and I picked up in Frankenmuth on our first Christmas together 30 years ago. Putting the actual ornaments up is something I gladly pawn off on anyone who walks in the door.

But lying on my back to the confusion of the cat and dog, I force myself to walk through the 3-D scrapbook that I so easily pass by, starting with “Pat and Mike,” two plastic regulars on every tree of my life–starting with my parents’ first tree in 1963.

“Kevin’s Elf”–definitely the ornament in greatest need of a dry cleaning but one I’ve looked forward to seeing in the box from the basement.  He followed me to my married life and is one of those ornaments that probably is supposed to be on a shelf but we’ve always wedged him in somewhere.

Next up is certainly the winner of the “Umm, what’s the story with that one?” award.  I can still remember the terror of the evilly-named “Kiln” of my second-grade art class in Cincinnati as the teacher sent my candy-cane into the inferno.  I was certain that it could never survive the overnight cool-down, let alone 5 decades.

Sometimes it’s pretty easy to miss a favorite–primarily due to its luan-thinness, I suppose.  But he always makes the cut and almost as easy to miss is the “72” tag on the left foot with my name on the right.

Patrice did a great job strategically arranging these ornaments of our parents whose absence is remembered fondly all over these boughs.  Thank you Jim Walsh and Bob and Helen Knox.

It’s no longer standing, a gorgeous little brick home in Royal Oak that we outgrew in 1998 but it produced five years of great stories and both kids’ first Christmas. The property was split into two thinner deep lots and very large homes now overshadow the block’s bungalows.

I imagine the Hallmark Store’s consistent seller is the Baby’s First Christmas option–complete with the model year on some.  Hard to believe these guys are 24 and 26 now when I can so clearly remember taking these tiny photos yesterday.

And you can’t go wrong with hanging on to the kids’ school-project ornaments–even if they objectively can be a bit discerning to the artists years later as my son has remarked on the proportion issue with his angel’s head (and two parents’ chuckles at the irony of this face on an angel’s body).

And I’ll wrap up this tour with a few other favorites from my morning musing…

A 1974 home-made gift from our neighbor Mrs. Martz, mom of my two best friends Ron and Rick.
A 1993 gift from my girls tennis team while coaching at Dondero High School
And you can't go wrong with Rudolph's Yukon Cornelius.
And what says Christmas better than Gandalf and Bilbo?
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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 6. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kwteacher

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