Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Helpers

I am so ready to for our Christmas decorations to be up. Not only do we not have a tree yet, we haven’t even decided whether we’ll have a real or artificial version of fir – or spruce, or pine. We’ve always had a real tree, with Frazier Fir being my favorite. I actually love the staying power of the tree, but I'd probably buy it anyway just for its alliterative name.

When we lived in New Orleans, we had a two-story cathedral ceiling in our great room, so we bought a fourteen-foot fir for our first Christmas as a couple. Richard engineered a special stand out of half-inch marine plywood complete with coated cables and turnbuckles for tightening as we positioned the green giant. When we chose the tree, I hadn’t calculated that the width of the bottom boughs would expand with the height.

This tree was massive. The angel overlooked the second-story balcony, and the branches filled a seven-foot diameter in a room that was twenty feet wide. We had to move most furniture out of our great room, and still we had barely any room for visiting with our revolving door of holiday guests. After taking a week to decorate this behemoth, I decided to have help with our next tree.

The second year, we had a tree decorating open house that spanned a two-day week-end. Everyone who came through our beautiful double doors, with Christmas wreaths and brass horns on both, was required to place at least one ornament on the tree and have at least one beverage before leaving our holiday home. There were Christmas ornaments laid out on all tables and countertops, along with a full buffet feast. Richard had even made a special countertop insert for our kitchen bay window to increase our buffet space.

Children of all ages were lined up on the stairs and every available bit of space. There were hundreds of Christmas carols stacked in our new five-disk CD changer which we’d bought especially for this occasion. Parents were helping their children choose and secure the ornaments to the tree, and everyone was glowing with good cheer --and possibly a bit of booze -- when…

Richard’s partner, Thor, leaned into the tree holding his small son aloft. Somehow, the child zigged when Thor zagged and Michael fell into the center of the tree. In most households this would have been a disaster, but Richard’s fifty-pound tree stand saved the day. Thor retrieved Michael, and the people partied on. This tree stand could hold any tree we threw at it. It could survive anything, including hurricane force winds, if need be. But it didn’t survive Hurricane Katrina's storm surge, and neither did our waterfront home which also had a cathdral ceiling, but only one-story tall.

We, once again, have a cathedral ceiling, but this living room is not much wider than our first tree, so our tree won't have much majesty no matter the type. Our outdoor lights are laying on the floor waiting for our gutters to thaw so that we can clean them while securing the lights. Our village scene is still in storage.

When I was a child, my mother wouldn’t allow us to decorate, or even purchase a tree, until Christmas Eve. She said that this was when the trees burst into bloom with joy over the birth of Jesus, so we followed suit. Of course, the pickin’s were slim on tree choices by this time – but the trees were probably also very cheap. My mother was great at reframing our poverty in religious terms.

Maybe we should get a two-dollar tree on Christmas Eve and have everyone in the holler help decorate our house.

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