What are your earliest Christmas memories? Did your father nail the Christmas tree to the wall?
One of my earliest Christmas memories is my father nailing the tree to the wall. The tree had fallen repeatedly, each time spilling water and shattering ornaments. He had wrestled the tree upright each time, but the last time something snapped. He marched out to the garage, returning with two sixteen-penny nails, bailing wire, and a claw hammer. He pounded nails in the wall on each side of the tree, wrapped the wire around one nail, around the tree, then around the other nail. The tree didn’t fall after that. My mother came in to see what the noise was all about, took one look, turned on her heel, and spent the rest of the day locked in their bedroom.
It could have been a scene right out of Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical “A Christmas Story.” One thing I learned from it is to always have an industrial strength tree stand.
I think one reason Shepherd’s fractured Christmas tale is probably his best known work is that we can all identify with it. The holiday season is a complex mix of the sacred and absurd, awe and silliness, family warmth and animosity, community and capitalism. Therapists everywhere are working overtime to keep up with the seasonal peak in demand.