By Lynn Ashby 9 May 2011
– Here’s a little drummer boy, several angels, red balls, green balls, yellow balls, fuchsia and beige balls. Boy, do I have stars. No partridge in a pear tree, but I think some lords are a-leaping around here. In case you are wondering, I am pruning down my Christmas decorations, and it’s harder than I thought. You see, like many American household, our nest is emptying, so I am weeding out. Do I really need a six-car garage? How many walk-in humidors and saunas does one family require?
The less-is-more program is easy, except for getting rid of Christmas tree ornaments. You may recall when your first-born arrived, and everyone was happy as they gathered around the manger. Then came maybe another and another. The little darlings wanted a real live Christmas tree to rival the one in Rockefeller Center. I recall going out on those brisk December evenings and stealing one off the lot.
Incidentally, I have noticed over the years that you can get a real good deal on Christmas trees on Dec. 26. So just switch to the Russian celebration on Jan. 7 and save. Then the family would sip eggnog and vodka martinis as we broke out each old ornament and lovingly put it on the tree. Most people top their tree with a star, but that’s so ordinary. I prefer a sausage, to remind us that Germans gave us the tree tradition. Every year the kids would bring home from school those little reindeer they had made out of Popsicle sticks and Santas formed from flour paste which the ants would gnaw on during the off season. Over the years we accumulated 3,498 different tree ornaments. Then there was silver tinsel which draped over the branches to look like ice cycles and, when it was time to dismantle the tree, the tinsels would spread across the rug and knot up the vacuum cleaner. My family insisted on a live tree. “Artificial trees are for artificial people,” they chanted as they festooned the front door’s plastic wreath with Styrofoam berries. A real live tree meant it had to go in a metal stand that held water to keep the tree’s needles from falling off, which they did anyway. I even got this IV device which meant I had to bore holes in the base of the trunk and stick in plastic tubes which would drip water into the tree. That way I had healthy needles to fall on the floor. When the stores started replacing their Christmas decorations with Easter bunnies, I knew the season was over and it was time to waste the Pseudotsuga menziesii. What do you do with your old Christmas tree? Those suckers are dry and brittle, one big turpentine explosion just waiting for a match, so it shouldn’t be hanging around the fireplace too long. My own solution is simple: I have this backyard fence which isn’t too high. Some people like to recycle, which is all the rage. We are supposed to take our trees, with those dry needles sticking out like harpoons, to the second-hand tree shop in Kilgore. You can literally be a tree hugger and buy a tree in a pot, then after the holidays, plant it in your backyard.
Every Christmas you can go out and dig it up, as it grows bigger and bigger, and bring it into your house. This is by far the greenest, most environmentally friendly and stupidest idea I have ever heard. Yes, having a real, live Christmas trees were the days. But we gradually cut back to a simpler forest with smaller trees, then one which was flocked to reduce the pine pollen. I suggested using a really cute and simple bearer of ornaments: one made of coat hangers, but was overruled. So we now have a perfectly acceptable tree which requires far fewer decorations. This brings me back to my original predicament of the ornaments, among which are a pineapple, a Chinese mandarin and a map of Texas. It is unclear just what they have to do with Christmas. On the other hand, we have the world’s largest Christmas crèche, beautifully carved by gnomes in the Alps (from a village called “China”) which portrays the inn, Mary and Joseph, lots of angels, shepherds and such, but I don’t recall the Bible mentioning elephants, deer, porcupines and pigs. Did Bethlehem have buffalo? Our crèche has them. So perhaps tree ornaments of bazookas and fire plugs are OK. These various decorations are too good to give away. We gave as many as we could to reluctant offspring. What to do? There are Christmas shops which spring up right after the Yule decorations open, which is the week before Halloween. Maybe I could sell these ornaments, take the money and buy a large bottle of Johnny Walker Black. Fa-la-la and ho, ho, ho. I also have 23 miles of tree lights. You, no doubt, also have tree lights. As with the other decorations, you annually drag the boxes down from the attic, up from the basement or backyard bomb shelter.
Each year, someone sneaks into my attic during the summer and tangles up my Christmas tree lights. These babies have come a long way from the old times when, if one light burned out, the entire string went. Today sudden death only happens on lights strung on the outside of the house along gutters, tree limbs, mail boxes and pink flamingos. I used to string those lights myself, dangling on a stepladder with little clamps between my teeth, usually in mind-numbing cold and rain, falling to the bushes every 20th bulb or so. Today I hire someone else to do it, paying him most of my Christmas bonus from Enron. Maybe I could string these ornaments along the outside of my house,. I’ll trade you this little trombone and Chinese mandarin for a fifth of Johnny Walker Black. Ho, ho, ho.
Ashby is decorated as email@example.com