The Christmas holiday is a lot calmer for me now. The days of rushing around from house to house with kids and gifts in tow is long gone. I lived that from both sides, as a child and as an adult. Trying to fit in all the stops in a two-day time span can get very hectic and tends to frazzle the nerves.

Now that Dave and I are empty-nesters, we don’t have to haul kids and gifts to Grandma’s house anymore. In fact, we don’t have any grandmas anymore. We visit his dad and stepdad at their houses, just to relax and visit a bit.

On Christmas Eve, our No. 1 son and his wife make time to spend with just us at our house. Normally, we have a ham dinner and dig into our stockings and presents.

This year, we opened everything a couple of days early when the kids dropped by on Sunday. We still ate ham on Christmas Eve and spent the rest of the evening playing games.

Dave and I never really were good at waiting until Christmas. Half the time, we didn’t even wrap our gifts for each other. We couldn’t wait that long to give them.

When our son was young, he didn’t pay much attention to the calendar. What difference would it make if he opened his gifts on the 24th or the 23rd? Besides, he’d be going to various grandparents’ houses on the 24th or 25th. What kid wouldn’t want to spend three straight days of getting presents? 

Just don’t get caught showing off something new before Christmas in front of my mom. She was a stickler for waiting all the way until Christmas Day. I think our need to cheat this year was based on the whole tree swap-out thing. 

I had wanted to get a new artificial Christmas tree, but not for this year. I wanted to take advantage of the after-Christmas sales. I was surprised the Sunday before Christmas with a huge 6-foot gorgeous tree that had spent the past few weeks as a display model at the store where our daughter-in-law works. 

It’s about three times the size of the one we had, which was of course, already up and decorated. I figured we’d get a look at the new tree, then put it in storage for next year. That’s evidently not what Dave had in mind. 

While I was otherwise engaged watching our son install new electrical receptacles in our utility room, Dave was busy with the trees. He had already moved our little tree out of the way and was working on getting the new one into the living room. 

Our daughter-in-law helped him move furniture to make room for the tree and started taking the ornaments off this one and putting them on that one. What had filled our little tree to the brim didn’t even cover the front side of the new one. 

It reminded me of the tree Dave and I had on our first Christmas after we were married. It was the only time Dave ever let me go get the tree by myself. By the time we could get a tree, there was only one tree lot left. All the others had been selling trees for $8 to $10. But those were all gone. 

This guy wanted $20 a tree. That was outrageous and I told him so, but he wasn’t budging on the price. So, I picked out the biggest, tallest tree on the lot. At the time, Dave and I had an Oldsmobile 98 Regency, a humongous boat of a car with trunk that could easily fit six or eight bodies. 

Even so, the tree stuck out on either side of the car. It was probably illegal as all get out, but I drove out of that lot triumphantly with my prize. I think it took Dave about an hour to drag that thing upstairs to our apartment. 

We lived in a huge old house that had been split off into four apartments. I think our living room must have been the master bedroom of the house because off to one side was a little room that probably had been a walk-in closet. 

I envisioned the tree in that room with presents all around. What I got was that entire room filled with nothing but tree that Dave had to trim down to fit in our 8-foot ceilings.

It was our first Christmas together, we hadn’t really accumulated many ornaments yet. We put on everything we had, plus everything we pilfered from Mom and Grandma, and still only managed to decorate the front half of that tree. 

That was the last time I ever had to go get a real tree by myself. And also one of the few that really sticks in my mind. So, here we are 33 years later with nearly the same dilemma. This time, though, all I had to do was go back upstairs and haul out the rest of our ornaments.

Dave and I had been picking up new ones all year long at rummage sales. Actually, I had been a little disappointed that they all hadn’t fit on our little tree, which was beautiful in its own right. This new one is absolutely gorgeous.

I plan to put our old one in with our yard sale items. It brought us a lot of years of joy, maybe it’ll brighten someone else’s holiday next year.