|On Christmas morning, Mom took us down to a gas station that sold Christmas trees. She selected a tall, dark, but slightly dried-out Douglas fir. "This poor old tree isn't going to sell by the end of the day, and it needs someone to love it," she told the man and offered him three dollars. The man looked at the tree and looked at Mom and looked at us kids. My dress had buttons missing. Holes were appearing along the seams of Maureen's T-shirt. "Lady, this one's been marked down to a buck," he said.
We carried the tree home and decorated it with Grandma's antique ornaments: ornate colored balls, fragile glass partridges, and lights with long tubes of bubbling water. I couldn't wait to open my presents, but Mom insisted that we celebrate Christmas in the Catholic fashion, getting to the gifts only after we'd attended midnight mass. Dad, knowing that all the bars and liquor stores would be closed on Christmas, had stocked up in advance. He'd popped open the first Budweiser before breakfast, and by the time midnight mass rolled around, he was having trouble standing up.
|Catholic midnight Mass begins at the midnight following Christmas Eve.