The Flight Deck, the gift shop at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, decorates miniature Christmas trees to display on the counters next to the cash registers for the holidays. The artificial green trees, which each stand about twenty-four inches tall, feature miniature gifts representative of some branch or aspect of the military. The decorations are color coded by service branch, as red and gold for the Marines. But blue is the predominate color of decorations. There’s even a Blue Angels tree with tiny F-18 jets on it.
Seeing those trees reminds me of The Deemer twins, Dawn and Lori, the energetic high schoolers who lived next door to us in Texas. One Christmas season, they created a miniature cowboy tree for our family. Its dainty green branches, not more than three inches long, supported tiny lassoes, beads, lariats, cowboy hats, chile peppers, sheriffs’ badges, and a host of white twinkling lights. I loved that tree, but finally parted with it at the insistence of family members who said it was too tattered and worn out.
This year I’m dreaming of making myself a table-top gumbo tree. I could decorate it with doll house pots and pans, teeny bottles of Tabasco, some artificial shrimp lures, sassafras leaves, okra pods and miniature bags of flour. I might even add a few silver spoons from a tea set. I have a photo of my dad, who retired from the Army reserves, that I might put on top of the tree. In the photo, The Colonel, as the grandkids called him, is standing in the kitchen wearing a red and white striped apron, and sampling from a big pot of gumbo he’d just finished cooking.
Now I understand why most of the Christmas trees in the gift shop are decorated in blue. It’s the symbolic and appropriate color for those gone or far away. Just like Elvis sang “when the blue snowflakes start falling, when those blue memories start calling . . . I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”
So for all fathers and grandfathers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, we miss you and wish you a Merry Christmas. We’ll freeze some gumbo for you!