“The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!” – Charles N. Barnard
Hobby Lobby makes me cry.
For the past two Decembers as I’ve started down an aisle of Christmas paraphernalia, my chest has gotten tight and tears have stung my eyes.
The first time it happened, I left the store quickly so I would not embarrass myself. Last weekend, I pressed on and was doing OK, until I saw a small stack of icicle boxes on one shelf.
Let me assure you, it’s no fault of Hobby Lobby’s, these emotional come-aparts of mine. The fault, I believe, is my mama’s.
She died just before the holidays two years ago. I honestly don’t remember much about our first Christmas just after her death, just that we muddled through somehow.
Last December, I thought all things were back to normal – whatever normal is. I felt excited about looking at Christmas contraptions in Hobby Lobby. But halfway down the first aisle, I swallowed a lump in my throat, forced back tears and, like Elvis, left the building.
Last weekend I actually made it down three or four aisles, and placed an item or two in a basket. But those darn icicles stopped me in my tracks.
Our mother, my sister’s and mine, was an icicle fanatic. And I mean that in the most literal way.
I can offer up as evidence photographs – the earliest ones in black and white – of Christmas trees as far back as 1957 (my first). Even without color, it’s easy to see the trees, though green underneath, shine like silver on their surface. And I mean their entire surface – no portion of any limb left uncovered.
As my sister and I grew older, we became the ornament hangers in the tree-trimming process. Dad looped the lights. And Mom watched and waited her turn at the tree.
She waited for the icicles. Boxes and boxes and boxes of the shiny silver strands. And she used them all, every single one, sometimes sending Dad out for additional boxes.
No tossing the strands haphazardly, letting them land where they might. We could help only if we observed artist Ann’s icicle etiquette – one strand at a time. Where’s the fun in that?
At some point, I became a know-it-all teenager who took great delight in dissing my mother’s decorating. I made it clear trees were meant to be green, not silver. In my sister’s memory – which is younger than mine – she whined right along with me: “No more icicles.”
We are both certain Dad stayed out of the fray.
I’ve written about my icicle-loving mama at different times, in different places.
One year in Vicksburg, I came back to the newspaper from doing an interview.
“One of your readers came in and left you something,” the newsroom clerk told me, as she handed me a large manila envelope.
I opened it to find a single, unopened box of the silver strands so beloved by my mama. Affixed to the box, a yellow Post-It note with this message: “Leslie, Shame on you. As many things as your sweet mama has done for you in this life, you let her have her icicles. Merry Christmas.”
I talked to my sister Wednesday afternoon, and we both agree: We wish we could go back and fall madly in love with our mother’s icicles and let her keep shining up our trees for every Christmas she was given.
Last year I glued some icicles into the hand of the angel that sits atop my tree. I did it in memory of mama.
Oh, how I wish she were here to see that angel.
And to turn my green tree silver.