The search for the perfect Christmas tree began when Dad took the family to the local lots. I was always hopeful I could convince the others this would be the year for my favorite kind: the Noble Fir.
Invariably, I would be out-voted and Dad would load a Blue Spruce on top of the car. Once home, it would be carried into the front parlor and the dressing would commence. Dad would string the lights, then sit back and direct us while we hung the ornaments; shiny glass orbs, little wooden ones and the homemade kind we made in school.
The best decoration came at the end, the careful draping of the heavy crinkled icicles brought from England. They had to be strung singularly, carefully, to fill in any imperfections the tree might have. It was my favorite part of the tradition.
Then one December, Dad came home carrying a box.
"I've got the Christmas tree," he announced.
"But, Dad," one of my brothers protested, "We didn't' get to help pick it out."
I looked out the window toward the car. There wasn't a tree tied to the roof. I turned to my father and asked, "Where is it? It's not on the car."
He grinned one of his silly grins. Setting the box down, he said, "Here."
I looked at the box. There was a picture of an artificial tree on it. Dad, excited about setting it up, carried it into the parlor. I looked on in horror as he unpacked it. Not only was it a phony tree, it was made out of silver tinsel. I watched as Dad pulled each limb out of plain brown paper sleeves and inserted the wire end into holes drilled into the silver painted broomstick trunk.
"We can only put the glass balls on this tree," Dad said.
But what about lights?"
Dad showed us a light wheel. It had red, blue, green and yellow triangles on a disc and when attached to the motor, turned. He plugged it in and faced it toward the tree. The wheel turned slowly and the silver picked up the rainbow, then reflected it back to us.
My brothers oohed and aahed. I turned to leave.
"Aren't you going to help decorate it, Sissy?" My dad asked me.
"No," I said and I left.
After the tree had been decorated, I sat watching the kaleidoscope of cascading colors wash over it. It was mesmerizing, perfectly symmetrical, gaudy, commercial and belonged in the cosmetic department of Macy's, not in our front room. Where could I hang the icicles? I hated it.
We used that tree for a number of Christmases. Every year I tried to talk my dad into a real tree and failed. Then, Dad decided it was time for the real thing again and the tinsel tree was left alone in its box, forgotten.
Years later, much to my chagrin, I find myself wanting to set up that gaudy silver thing, to sit mesmerized in front of it, reflecting and being reflected upon