It’s that time of year. Time to haul out the Christmas decorations, the ornaments, the tree. A time to create the atmosphere through active decorating, followed by passive, relaxed atmosphere enjoyment.
Except for this year.
We are in our new townhouse, which, by the numbers, has more square footage than our previous one. However, by a quirk of not-well-thought-out architectural design, actually lives smaller than the old one.
No obviously convenient place for a tree.
Not near the entry next to a front window, a normal place to have a tree, as this would entail relocating the dining room furniture (notice two “quirks” here). Not in the back in the “living space,” as that would entail shrinking the living space until any guests would be sitting knee-to-knee and become almost pinned between the television and the fireplace (another “quirk”). The additional square footage is actually located upstairs in the master bedroom, where we once had the dining room table situated with room to spare.
So, while we eventually decided on how to create a spot for next year’s tree, we reluctantly decided not to do one this year, not only for the logistical reasons above but also for the reason that we will be away longer over the holidays. Not that we will be relaxing at a lodge for three days hoping for a white Christmas. No, this year we will be traveling to Southeast Asia for three weeks, celebrating Christmas at 85 degrees and 85% humidity. Ornaments on a mango tree.
(We reached the stage of life where we would be up-and-traveling in any case as our sons and their families have relocated to the west coast. Last year we were all together over Christmas so this is the year where they gather with their wives’ families. This makes this year our “away-game.” But it, too, is for family: the family of our “spiritual daughter,” the single mother who came to live with us years ago.)
This left the issue as how to create a short term Christmassy atmosphere with little to work with.
Out came the boxes and with a little time and effort the complete collection was culled down to small favorites sprinkled around the townhouse. One still has to look closely to see them, but at least they’re there.
The sole remaining element to our traditional Christmas atmosphere is the music. Set at low volume, of course, but there.
I retrieved the little steel box that housed our collection of Christmas and holiday CDs and pulled out the 3CDs that have become known as The Collection. I looked at one of the labels and noticed the date: Christmas 1998.
Twenty years ago they were a Christmas present for each of us, parents and three brothers, carefully and secretly created and burned on his computer by our youngest son. A task of love to continue a tradition and to make it available to all of us.
You see, he didn’t curate a number of current holiday CDs, he went to a reel-to-reel tape that I had created years before when all the boys were very young. In about 1975 to be exact. I had then been finally able to assemble a home stereo system, complete with a Pioneer RT-707 tape deck. This let me create listening tapes that would last up to 3 hours (the deck would reverse, playing in both directions). This was a huge benefit, as it eliminated the mandatory flipping over of vinyls on the turntable.
I created The Collection from current Christmas albums we all had come to enjoy: Jose Feliciano, The Kingston Trio, Nat King Cole, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. It became the go-to tape once Thanksgiving had passed, and survived uncounted plays every year.
I popped the first CD into our current “device” (a home theater system), and it all began to come back. Memories of all the years past, that Christmas in 1998 and talking about the effort to transfer from tape to CDs via a PC, and even memories of carefully creating the tape in the first place.
And the Christmas atmosphere was finally In The Aire. All around.