Hitting a Nerve

The Charlie Brown tree


I put a Christmas tree up early in November.

It’s not like it’s a real tree, or even a fancy one. For that matter, I’m Jewish.

Growing up in the 1970s one thing that could be relied on every year was the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It never changed. By age 5 you knew most of the lines, and loved the highlight when Charlie Brown brings home the saddest-looking tree ever, which collapses when he puts a single bauble on it.

Charlie Brown tree Courtesy Dr. Allan M. Block

Years ago, my kids gave me a Charlie Brown tree as a gift. It even plays the late Vince Guaraldi’s immortal Peanuts theme when you push a button. I forgot about it for a few years, then discovered it, and immediately brought it to my office.

I’m not a fan of holiday creep, where they move up earlier in the year, so I used to put it up after Thanksgiving. But we close the office 2-3 weeks later for the rest of the year. I like the tree, my staff likes the tree, and my patients like the tree, so I just started putting it up in early November so we can enjoy it for a month.

It’s whimsical and brings back memories of innocence, childhood, and (of course) Peanuts. It sets a cheerful tone when you see it there. Very few of my patients can resist pressing the button and playing the music as they go by.

The start of a new year is a relatively arbitrary date, chosen long ago. But its approach is always a reminder that life goes on. We continue our trips around the sun. Good times and bad times come and go, but time never stops.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

In bad years the tree reminds me that it’s coming to an end, and to look toward the next. In good years it reminds me that it’s time to be ready for the surprises of the coming one. With the stresses of the holidays and things (like getting taxes ready) that the year’s end brings, as well as the routine daily challenges of any medical practice, the Charlie Brown Christmas is a reminder to keep a sense of humor.

In mid-December, after the patients are done for the last day of the year, I quietly put it away. It’s a vaguely somber moment, but at the same time I’m glad to know I now have 2-3 weeks of home time. It mostly involves working at my desk and returning phone calls, but there’s also time to relax with my kids, do jigsaw puzzles, and enjoy the Phoenix winter weather as a break before the next round starts.

To those who disagree with my choice of decoration or its timing, I simply respond: “Good grief!”

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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