Sunday, December 14, 2014


One of my favorite holiday traditions included everything about the Christmas tree, from shopping for one, choosing a size and shape, getting it home, in through the porch door after trimming the sap-bleeding trunk and screwing in the base, and then carefully getting it into the same corner of our living room each year.

Nowadays, with a smaller and dispersed family, getting a tree for my apartment doesn't really make much sense. Our ornaments are no longer the massive multi-generation collection. In fact, the whole ritual of 'gathering 'round the tree' doesn't really work when you're single. I did check out a few very reasonably priced wreathes.

So, instead, inspired by other authors, book collectors and designer types, I chose a few favorites, based on size and shape, and strung up some lights around my little book tree. So, happily, while trees were killed to make those books, none were sacrificed to make my home a little more festive.
Of course, pines and spruces harvested for Christmas are raised in nurseries and replaced over the years with even more. But the fact that they are annually sacrificed for a Druid-derived ritual that originated with decorating a live tree may be lost on most.

It's probably not a good idea for your holiday cheer to know how many other trees are destroyed every day around the world, how the actual oxygen providers on our planet are dying, all exemplified by the news that loggers accidentally cut down the world's oldest tree  in the Amazon. 

This news would disturb my arbor-ardorous character Reid Conniff in my two latest novel, Every Time I Think of You and Message of Love. While leaves become a prominent symbol and part of the story itself in the sequel, in both books, Reid learns about, grows, and even helps out with the family Christmas tree rituals. Even Reid and Everett's first meeting is rich with tree imagery and jokes.

But the series of Christmases depicted in Message of Love, and their varying annual shifts, show an evolution in Reid's family relationship, and his growth as a young man.

Here's an excerpt from  Message of Love,
Chapter 13
January 1981

“A holocaust; a damn horticultural holocaust.”
Dad didn’t want to miss the truck as it approached down the street, the loud grinding noise having roused us to drag the dried up Christmas tree to the curb.
There would be later days for the tree pick-ups, but Mom had already stripped the tree of the ornaments by the time I trained back from Pittsburgh after New Year’s Day. Everett had a few more family days before we would drive back to Philadelphia and was due to pick me up later that day.
“We really should get a fake tree.”
“Don’t you like tradition?” Dad asked as he tried to wipe off a bit of sap from his hand.
“The sacrifice of a few million spruces is not one of my favorite rituals,” I replied with a dry edge. The truck slowly approached, and with it the chomping noise of the mulcher attached to it.
“You know they’re farmed,” he said. “It’s not like forests are being stripped for the holidays.”
“I know, but it’s the concept. Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce; proud trees bred to be tiny, like pug dogs. They’re a mutation.”
“How is that different than farming? Where would we get all those vegetables growers put in cans for me to sell so I can pay your tuition?”
“It’s a vicious cycle,” I shook my head, pretending to be some wise philosopher. And yet, we stood curbside, fascinated by the approaching roar. I couldn’t help but feel a strange combination of satisfaction and horror as the gloved worker nodded to us, took our tree, and shoved it into the machine, which chewed it into bits.
As the truck passed, Dad offered a supportive shoulder pat, continuing our half-serious debate as we returned to the house.
“The nursery sells live trees,” I offered. “We could get one next year and plant it after the holidays.”
“In the middle of winter? You want to dig a hole in frozen ground?”
“We could dig it in the fall, or we could buy a fake one. It’d be campy.”
“Campy?” Dad asked, utterly confused.
“Yeah, Mom would love that.”
Dad sighed in surrender. “It’s your call. I’m staying neutral on the subject.”
“Think of the money you’d save!”
Our trail of needles in the living room to the porch door was already being vacuumed to a mere memory by Mom, whose enjoyment of the holidays seemed matched by her efficient removal of its evidence.
Dad grabbed a scrub brush and washed his hands over the kitchen sink, then, once Mom shut off the vacuum, said, “Our son the environmentalist suggested we go artificial next year.”
“What, the tree?” Mom asked.
“Or a live one,” I added. “We could plant it. I can do it.”
“Oh, and leave me to clean up a bag of dirt, too?”
“We can put it in a bucket,” I suggested.
“So we have to buy a bucket, too?” With her hands on her hips in mocking astonishment, I couldn’t help but grin at her.

For a perfect holiday gift, buy both books online or request them at your local bookstore. Happy holidays.

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