21 December 2005

remembrance of things past

talking to my parents as we trimmed the tree this evening, we waxed poetic (or perhaps just waxed) about the ghosts of christmas trees past. we Routh are rather fond of our tree choices - those trees that are off-kilter, somehow slightly askew are the ones that invariably find themselves bedecked in years worth of yuletide trinket collection. so we paused while admiring the fruits of our bedecking labors in order to pay tribute to arbors of yore.

my favorite recollection is actually from that of my teacher in china, whose son's class was learning about western holiday traditions during my wintertime spent in changchun. Shu's son's teacher wanted a christmas tree for the classroom but of course could not find one to cut down (trees are rare enough in cities as to not be available for the taking, and the country is difficult to access without private transportation which few have), so she decided that each student should have to bring a branch in as homework. the teacher would then bind them together, and the class would have their tree! now Shu's husband is a police officer, but they love their son, and the prospect of him not having a branch for the classroom tree was too much to bear, so in the dead of night, he took a saw and went into nanhu park. as he started cutting into one of the branches, he looked around carefully to see if anyone was watching him only to find that there were a few other parents doing the same thing. i didn't get to see the "tree" that the teacher bound together, but i imagine it looks rather like one in line with Routh tree specifications.

a week after this story was just after christmas and my next lesson with Shu Laoshi. this was the telling of the Stocking Incident. along with learning about christmas trees at public school, Shu's son also learned about christmas stockings at his after-school english class. he insisted on having a christmas stocking with a tenacity that almost led Shu Laoshi to distraction. they made great ceremony of hanging the stocking by the fire (actually the radiator connected to the bloc's centralized furnace, but whatever) with care and then went off to bed. in the middle of the night, however, Shu's son shook her awake and begged that the stocking be taken down because he was afraid that he would get coal in it because he had been such a bad boy. Shu Laoshi, though not fluent in the semantics of western holiday traditions, is very quick on the uptake and a clever woman who knows how to answer the door when opportunity knocks. in the following five minutes, she learned a great deal of her son's recent transgressions which he believed would provoke a coal-ated stocking come christmas morning. he got candy in his stocking, but i am sure not without first promising both his mother and santa claus to be better next year.