Miss Mabel thought you might enjoy this Christmas essay from Ginger Hanson's ebook A Dash of Ginger. Happy Holidays!
We passed a neighbor's house the other day and I noticed they had bought a Christmas tree. Bundled in travel mode and tied with twine, it leaned against the fence near the garage door. Several hours later, we returned from running our errands. By then it was dark, but standing in an uncurtained front window of our neighbor’s house was their Christmas tree, its lights twinkling cheer into the night.
I was shocked.
A Christmas tree purchased and decorated within hours! I had always assumed everyone made a production out of buying a Christmas tree.
Obviously, I was wrong.
Obviously, only my husband does.
Bob insists on buying just the right Christmas tree. Actually, buying the tree doesn’t take very long. It’s the pre-purchase and post-purchase guidelines that must be followed that eat up the time.
First, the tree must be untied, in upright position and available for a thorough examination. This means casing the area Christmas tree lots. Any place of business that fails to untie at least a sample of its trees is avoided.
Second, the correct height must be determined. There is an immutable law of physics that all Christmas tree purchasers must accept: the Christmas tree you buy off the lot is always higher than the ceiling of your house. I’m especially prone to choosing trees that won’t fit into the living room. Bob finally decreed that I had to be able to touch the top of the tree without standing on my tiptoes. And no whining about how small the tree looked in the lot.
Third, Bob examines the tree. It must have a good Christmas tree shape or one that can be corrected by a nip here or a tuck there. Any deformed trunks or the tendency to lean too far to the right or left disqualifies the tree.
Fourth, he makes sure the top is properly stemmed to hold the ornament that crowns the tree. The decision of what best crowns a Christmas tree came after years of experimentation by his wife, who has been known to put some unusual stuff on the top of the tree. It's taken a few years, but Bob finally talked me into a spired topper, which is his favorite.
When all the above criteria is met, the chosen tree is loaded on the pickup truck and brought home. Once home, it is put into the tree stand. It is not, I repeat, not decorated for another two to three days. According to Bob, the tree needs time to "fall out" before he can determine how much to trim from where.
After the tree “falls out,” he trims away the excess branches. When he is satisfied with its look, the tree is deemed fit to enter the house.
This action greatly confuses our pets. That’s right, if you want mental confusion, drag a tree into the house where two dogs and a cat live.
Bandit takes one look at the tree and thinks, "Finally, indoor doggy bathroom facilities."
Scooter takes one look and thinks, “What a good place to hide when I tease the dogs into chasing me!”
Toffy takes one look and thinks, “Can I skinny between the tree and the wall to catch Scooter?”
And I think, “If I electrify the tree will it keep them from messing with it?”
Although the tree is inside the house, it isn’t yet ready for decorating. It must first be placed in the corner, its tree stand filled with water, and the tree skirt tucked around its feet. Now, we’re ready to decorate.
Ah, the joy of decorating a Christmas tree with my husband. As with preparation of the tree, there is an order to the actual decorating. The first step is to put on the lights.
Wait, the first step is to untangle the lights.
No matter how neatly Bob winds the strings of lights the previous year, they spend their off season time twisting themselves into unmanageable messes. At least, that’s what he claims as he mumbles and mutters his way through unwinding the lights.
Once he untangles the lights and ensures they all work, we start draping them around the tree. Being the artist he is, Bob doesn’t settle for lights trimming only the outside of the tree. No, the tiny lights must be layered from the trunk outward in order to achieve maximum effect.
Oh, and depth.
After the lights are deemed properly placed, the silver garland and strings of silver beads are draped and tucked around the tree. They must be placed on the tree in such a way as to ensure they are enhanced by the twinkling lights. Then Bob places the spired topper on the treetop. If all goes well, he only needs to check the tree from various angles and do a little tweaking before announcing it is now ready for the ornaments.
This is where we clash.
I mean, if Bob wants to pick, fall out, trim, light up, garland, and bead the perfect tree, why should I complain? He’s doing most of the work. But when it comes to what else goes on the tree, well, that’s my area of expertise no matter what he says.
And he says traditional conservative, while I say eclectic whimsical. This is a basic difference in taste. Traditional means hang a few dozen matching glass ornaments and you’re done. Whimsical means hang those matching glass ornaments, but give the tree some pzazz with a zillion cute little ornaments.
My ornament selection drives Bob nuts. He can’t figure out why I’d want to put a Santa flying his biplane next to an angel made from a cotton boll. Or add a Santa playing baseball about two inches from a sparkly elf. The hodgepodge of decorations I hang on the tree each year conflicts with his desire for the uncluttered, symmetrical look.
He has a point.
There is a place for the traditionally decorated tree in some households. I’ll even I admit I enjoy viewing them at department stores or gift shops. These trees look really nice, but they don’t reflect my personal philosophy which runs along the lines of “isn’t this cute, I think I’ll buy it for the Christmas tree.”
Then I buy it and put it on the tree while Bob grumbles about how my Christmas ornaments mess up his perfect tree. Frankly, I disagree with him. I think my choice of ornaments makes the tree perfect. Just as the family that buys and decorates their tree on the same day believes they have the perfect tree.
That’s the miracle of the Christmas tree. Once any tree has been decorated, it’s the perfect tree.