Sharon Randall, 12-26-11: Christmas is not just for kids

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What is it about Christmas that makes kids try to be "good" and old people act like kids?

For weeks, my husband has been nagging, "Can we please put the tree up now?"

The man loves Christmas.

I love it, too. But I can usually wait for it until Christmastime.

Before Halloween, he started itching to put the tree up. OK, maybe it was November, but it felt like October.

The holidays seem to come earlier every year.

I remember as a child thinking Christmas could never come soon enough. In summer, I'd start begging my mother to put our tree up. I had to start early to make sure she didn't forget.

Christmas trees were not her favorite thing. I don't know what her favorite thing was, but it was definitely not a tree.

She didn't like having to go out and get one, so she left that to my stepfather.

She didn't like decorating it, so she left that to me. And she really didn't like taking it down after Christmas and cleaning up the mess.

But we could never do it to suit her, so she did that herself.

Finally, when I was 10 or so, she came up with a solution: A fake aluminum tree that folded up for storage, and left no sticky needles on the floor.

I hated it. It looked like a TV antenna covered with toilet brushes. Have you ever tried to decorate a TV antenna covered with toilet brushes? Trust me, you don't even want to try.

A few days after Christmas, I got on a bus to go see my dad and his parents on their farm. When I told my grandmother about the fake tree, she said, "Your mama works too hard."

The next morning, she shook me awake and said, "Come see your Christmas tree."

Outside the kitchen window stood a giant fir covered in fresh snow. And there on its highest branch sat the perfect crowning ornament -- a cardinal.

In the stillness and beauty and surety of that moment, with my grandmother's breath warm on my neck, I forgot the fake tree and my mother's troubles and the doll that I had wanted, but would never get.

And suddenly it was Christmas.

So it always is. If Santa only comes while we're sleeping, Christmas only comes when we're wide-eyed awake to the gifts that are ours every day.

My mother finally got rid of the fake tree, thanks to a change in her nerve medications and the fact that we had to keep adjusting the toilet brushes to avoid interference in TV reception.

I vowed never to have a fake Christmas tree. I'm learning to be more careful of what I vow.

After my husband and I moved to the desert outside Las Vegas, we kept buying fresh Christmas trees that wouldn't last a week before dropping their needles. Finally, we gave up and bought a fake tree. It doesn't look, smell or feel like a real tree. It doesn't pretend to be what it's not. Everybody knows it's fake.

But it's green, not aluminum; covered in branches, not toilet brushes; and it doesn't interfere with our TV reception.

I'm not crazy about it, but I don't hate it.

Especially when I see how happy it makes my husband to drag it from the garage to the living room.

It's standing there now, all crooked and lopsided, beat up from storage, looking as if it had to fight all the other fake trees in the world for the privilege of spending Christmas with us.

We straightened it out, patched it up, covered it with lights and an angel, a few treasured ornaments and the snowflakes my grandmother crocheted for me.

It is still a fake tree. But it comes alive with the spirit of a real Christmas, and with the little-boy laughter of a grown man who reminds me that Christmas is not just for kids.

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