Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Trees

I was doing some shopping the other day when a Christmas tree grabbed my attention. It wasn’t particularly large, but it was quite striking in its radiance. It was blue – not a blue spruce – but a blue aluminum tree.

There is nothing like an aluminum tree to brighten up a room. With the advent of ... well, Advent, people are rearranging their homes to accommodate a tree in the corner. This time of year you see mini-vans driving home from a successful hunt with a tree tied to their roof.

Forty years ago phony Christmas trees looked phony – there was no pretense. Some people even “flocked” their trees (which doesn’t sound very religious at all) to make them look like they just dragged them through a blizzard. I could be talked out of this, but I think we had a real Christmas tree when I was a kid.

Every year Dad would get into the spirit of the season by wrestling with a tree. He would lug the tree through the rarely used front door, knocking over lamps and spreading needles as he went. I have warm memories of him throwing his glasses across the room after they had been bent by a contrary conifer.

For the first few years of our marriage my wife and I had joined the artificial tree class. I think it was because we were given someone’s rejected artificial tree. Charlie Brown would have taken it because he felt it needed him. We took it because it was free. But all the while we tried to convince ourselves that “it looks real doesn’t it?” We eventually decided the tree was too ugly and gave it to the Browns.

We usually buy a tree from the Boy Scouts here in town; I then lay it in the back of the truck. I try to avoid tying things down because my knot tying skills are not what they should be. But some years we have cut down our own – not at a tree farm – but on our own place. Unless you live on a tree farm, this practice doesn’t last very long.

I will drag the real tree through the house and purposely bump into a lamp to honor an old family tradition. My kids usually wait for the ceremonial throwing of the glasses before they retreat upstairs. A good year is measured by the amount of cuss words (or magic words as my father-in-law, Wayne, called them) I use in my fight with the tree.

My Christmas tree cage match costume is a hooded sweatshirt to protect against needles jumping down my back, gloves to ward off the stickiness of the sap, and lopping shears to attack the tree.

Over the years I have put up many Christmas trees. It’s easier to put them up before they are decorated with heirloom ornaments, garland and light – but I’ve done that as well, sometimes two or three times with the same tree.

Some people find aluminum loathsome, but I think it can be quite handsome. Mixed in with a drum and a dancing sugarplum, aluminum in the atrium can give a warm welcome.

Occasionally I like to mix things up, and I think something new, something blue might do the trick. You know what I’m talking about - even Elvis promoted a “Blue Christmas.” I realize a blue tree might be closer to creating an image found in a Warhol pop print than an American classic Christmas found in a Rockwell painting, but just once I would like to put up a tree that shines like a star.

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