Christmas Memories

by Tammy Phillips

It was so tall. My sisters and I had to rear our heads back to see the star on the top of it.

For years, my parents took that artificial Christmas tree out of its worn old box. Then we would put it together, pile on the tinsel and bulbs and lights, cover each branch with fake snow and then illuminate the tree with the spinning four-colored wheel. Our tree was Phillips, pretty and warm. It looked like it was touching the ceiling.

Then something happened. Our old tree shrunk?

I did not have to maneuver my head to the see the top star. My toes did not have to tippy to put the garland and ornaments on the top branch. My sisters and I had grown almost as tall as our tree. I remember when I was in my early teens being amazed that our tree and our Daddy were not tall at all.

My nephews continued the tradition of being in awe of the tall Phillips tree, pretty and warm, until they too shot up near the star. But even when our perspective changes, it was comforting to know some things stay the same.

Daddy was no decorator.  But, Mommy was gone, and we were grown and he decided to try, so…

When we were little girls, most front porches and yards were Christmas adorned. The “dark” houses were strange places where monsters lived. Ours was tastefully done: candles in the windows and our Phillips pretty and warm tree glimmering through the living room Venetian blinds. You could get a great view of it from the street.

Well, Daddy’s interpretation of tasteful was that everything that he could find Christmas related in the basement should be prominently displayed on the front porch. The fat light bulbs, the tiny bulbs, and the icicle-shaped lights choked the small tree next to the steps. Leftover lights were thrown on the banister. The half life-size Santa blocked the front door and a huge Rudolph swayed without his reindeer posse. The holly was not jolly, the wreath was sad and crooked and the mistletoe was missing a toe. If the porch could have moved across the street, it would have.

I loved driving down our block slowly so I could visually enjoy each house. Our home was almost at the end. The hodge-podge decorations were jarring. Daddy was outside, giving it his finishing touch. Oh mercy, he should have just kept his hands in his pocket.

I quickly parked and was ready to give correction, instruction, suggestions, but I could not. Daddy was so happy. He said, “Baby, what do you think of the porch?”

I smiled and said, “Daddy, I have never seen anything like it.” And believe me, I had not.

Only a few adjustments were made because a happy Daddy was worth the trauma.

The last time I saw my happy Daddy was on Christmas Day 2003.  Alzheimer’s had claimed his mind, but he managed, for a few minutes, to recognize his daughters and grandchildren.  During our festive evening, Daddy became frustrated with me.  He was popping large chocolate peanuts into his mouth like he had not eaten, ever.  My sister, who was his caregiver, was concerned that he would get sick so I took the gifted treats from him.  He expressed his outrage; I smiled.

It was time to say goodbye.  Walking towards the door, Daddy turned to me while adjusting his hat, smiling broadly and said, “Goodbye, Baby.”

He was with Jesus that February.   Daddy and Mommy are missed, but these memories are comforting.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to all from Tam’s Tidbits!

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