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Straight and unadorned, a tree ties Christmas together

My father, God rest his soul, had a weird sense of humor.

It sort of took you by surprise.

In retirement, he sometimes slept in, allowing everybody to wake up, gather in the kitchen and have their morning breakfast or coffees. When he finally walked in, he would ask innocently, “Am I the first one up?”

You had to be there to appreciate it.

Likewise, during Christmas, Dad showed impeccable timing in delivering another line. All the presents might be stacked under our tree, the outside lights were on, a holiday show would be playing on television, and Mom might have just baked a batch of Toll House cookies.

Dad would walk into the room and state the obvious matter-of-factly, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

Really, it was funny.
I’m writing this from my dining room table, just two days before Christmas. The table itself lies between periods of gluttony. It holds only my computer, an empty serving dish and a bothersome cat, in need of affection.

Around the corner in the front hallway stands our Christmas tree. It holds no ornaments, no lights or decorations at all. And we love it. With arrival of family at our house this weekend, we just ran out of time and heart for any serious attempt at decorating.

Lindsay, my wife, had only procured the tree last Tuesday night, as she noticed the Christmas tree lot packing up and closing for good. She bartered, offering the tree-lot workers a dessert in exchange for a tree, with some wreaths and garland thrown in.

They took the delicious bait; Lindsay, the greenery.

We are so proud of how straight the tree is in its tree stand, But we didn’t have the fortitude — so late in the season — to crawl on our knees underneath the first-floor steps to retrieve all those boxes of stuff to fancy it up.

So there it is. Nothing but a green, naked fir, lovely in its simplicity. The presents actually are sitting around two different artificial trees, with lights, that come up to my knees. We like them, too.

During most Christmases, I out-Scrooge Scrooge. It’s my cold, heartless nature. But this Christmas has been different for me, and I’m not sure why.

I’ve appreciated all the holiday lights I’ve seen this year, tacky and otherwise. I’ve read every Christmas card and Christmas letter about families I know.

The seasonal stories and evidence of people helping people have stuck with me more this year than most.

Saturday topped everything off for me. I accompanied Salisbury Police officers (and their families) as they delivered bicycles to 120 children in the city.

I wasn’t there for every delivery, of course, but it was great to be leaving a neighborhood and already see the children riding their new fancy bikes around the block.

Later in the day, photographer Wayne Hinshaw and I traveled to Concord for the homecoming of Army Spc. Tyler Jeffries, 23, who lost both of his legs to a well-hidden IED in Afghanistan.

I talked to some of Tyler’s family, who were joyous — joyous their soldier was alive and sharing Christmas with them. I felt water in my eyes when he stepped out of his car with metal legs and walked into the reception honoring him.

Saturday evening, I rang the Salvation Army bell outside the Harris-Teeter grocery store. A lot of angels earned their wings every time I rang that bell, but more angels — young and old — stuck money into the red bucket.

I kept having to push the money down with my pen to make sure there was more room.

Both of our sons and their “girls” also arrived at the house Saturday. As is tradition, the jigsaw puzzle is under way on the kitchen table. The counter is full of food. Christmas “craft” time is scheduled later, as is an outdoor fire.

The boys, who somehow have ended up playing for the championship in their fantasy football league, are yelling at the television and talking much trash to each other.

Sam, my oldest son, said something interesting to me Saturday. Did I remember, he asked, when Grandpa used to walk into the room on these kinds of days and say, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

And there it was, all the decoration I needed for our tree.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or mwineka@salisburypost.com.


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