Christmas tree memories

Ronda Rich's picture

Christmas is the time that we pack expectations into every package we wrap and for weeks anticipate that one, perfect Currier-Ives day.

And, of course, since any day is seldom perfect, there are varying degrees of let-down that trickle across the population.

For some people with high hopes, Christmas Day turns out to be melancholy. I realized this year, though, that there is one day of the Christmas season that never disappoints me. In fact, it is always warmer, more loving, memorable, and joyous than I expect.

That’s the day that I put up my favorite of three trees, the one in the bedroom that is a scrapbook of the bygone years and the people I love.

It is a silk tree covered in white lights with iridescent ornaments. The tree itself brings back the memories of a hotel suite in Lexington, Ken., where I was speaking at a women’s event.

It was a three-day tour on which I made new friends and had many laughs. I was watching a Bethlehem lights segment on QVC, saw the tree, and ordered it. Whenever I put it up, I smile remembering that joyous trip.

The angel atop that tree was purchased in Los Angeles when I traveled the NASCAR circuit and we still raced at the worn-out, now torn-down, dusty Riverside Raceway.

On the way to the airport, I had extra time so I stopped at a mall. The angel cost $40, a lot of money to me back then but I really wanted it for my first grown-up Christmas tree. Her lights are burned out now but she has never missed a year, guarding my tree and watching over me.

Big, glass balls that look like bubbles were purchased 20 years ago from the revered, now-gone Rich’s department store in Atlanta. Until last year, I had broken nary a one of the irreplaceable balls. I was sad for days after one dropped from the tree.

It makes me think of Rich’s strong traditions including the Pink Pig kids’ ride, the tea room, and the bookstore in the basement.

Several years ago, Mama and I were shopping at a department store one night before Christmas. They had a weekend, half-price sale of all ornaments so I bought several glimmering, four-tiered, glass snowflakes. Mama watched, smiling sweetly at their gorgeousness as the clerk carefully wrapped each one. Oh, how I enjoy the remembrance of that night with Mama as I hang each one.

Long, glass icicles scattered with shimmering, silver glitter remind me of my best friend from high school. Shortly after my first book published, Lisa found herself in an emergency during the Christmas season, short of help in her gift shop. I showed up and worked long days, refusing to take payment. Of course, she gifted me with Fritz and Floyd pieces and offered anything I wanted at half price. I bought those beautiful icicles so I think of her, that Christmas, and our teenage friendship.

A Swarovski ornament is a reminder of a blizzard that once stranded me in New York City, two days before Christmas while a larger one, both purchased at Rockefeller Center, marks my first Christmas with Tink, bringing to mind the light snow that was falling that night. Such a magical memory.

Three sets of glistening white balls were a gift for my first tree from my godmother, Mary Nell; a set of cascading glass bells were purchased in Pocono, Penn., and a heavy iridescent ball came from the glassmakers in Corning, N.Y., outside Watkins Glen.

The one that heart-tugs most, though, is the Hallmark ornament that Daddy insisted on buying. It is a lighted elf working at his bench. “Buy it,” he commanded, handing me the money.

Decorating that tree fills me with such love and warmth which is exactly what Christmas should be.

[Don’t miss “The Town That Came A-Courtin’,” the television movie based on Ronda’s best-selling novel, airing Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. on UP.]

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