People of a certain age know exactly what I am talking about.
And students of psychology will understand that it takes children a long time to realize that the reality in their home of origin isn't necessarily the way things are everywhere.
From my earliest years, this is the Christmas tree I grew up with.
I truly didn't know there was any other.
I sometimes saw others out in the world, but they were big outdoor trees. It made sense that they were different from our brilliant, shiny indoor tree.
It's there in all the early pictures.
This is not a complaint or a lament.
More than anything, it is a confession.
As a young child, I really did not know there was any other kind of household Christmas tree.
As I grew a bit older, it became my job to construct the tree each year.
And I loved it.
The "trunk" was made of two solid cylinders of real wood with notches cut to insert the branches at just the right angle. Individual brown paper tube contained each branch.
They made a satisfying whooosh sound each time I freed a branch from 11 months of hibernation.
Sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend, I set the tree up and it remained a space-age testament to the Christmas season until Jan. 1, when I would take it apart and carefully reinsert each branch into its housing while I watched the New Year's Day parades on TV.
Early in my second decade of life, we switched from the artificial aluminum tree to an artificial plastic evergreen. I don't recall for certain when or why. However, I think it may have coincided with a move to a new house. That, and the fact that the tree was almost 10 years old.
Perhaps it was also see as passe -- so '60s, but I never remember a personal sense of stigma about the old tree, though a few of the pom-pom ends had begun to droop from the branches.
I don't recall a stigma, but I also don't much recall missing the tree.
Like so many great things from the sixties -- like Apollo missions and the Beatles -- the aluminum tree did not live long into the seventies.
My brother and I have spent much of the past year helping to clear out the storage closets and boxes from our mother's home. We have found many surprising remnants of our childhood. But we did not find the aluminum tree.
It lives on in memory and faded photos and nostalgia for a time when my only responsibility at Christmas was seeing that the Christmas tree went up in time to celebrate the season.