The Crap Tree
by Michele Christopher
Several years ago my wife conceived a plan to take over Christmas decorations in our home. She's been very patient, moving so carefully that I only realized the scope of her plan this year. This fight isn't over, not by a long shot. But I've lost a lot of ground.
I am what you would call a 'Christmas kind of guy'. I love Christmas. I love the lights and the pretty packages, the wreaths, the greenery hanging everywhere. I like Christmas plates and coffee cups. Christmas cookies, Christmas music, Christmas towels in the bathrooms, Christmas napkins, Christmas movies and books, if they had Christmas toilet paper I would buy two cases (does anybody know if they make that?). I think Christmas lights on pickup trucks look terrific.
As soon as the clutter is cleaned away from the Thanksgiving feast, I'm up in the attic getting boxes down. I know where every one of them is, and I pretty much know what's inside of them. Not because I pack them up every January (that always makes me sad).I suppose it's just that we tend to use the same boxes for things. You could sum up my taste in Christmas decorations in one phrase. Colored lights. Yes, like the late Michael Kelly wrote on the topic of Christmas lights, there are white light people, and colored light people. I'm in the second group. Years ago I conceded the inevitability of teeny lights taking over. I gave up trying to find strings of lights with those big painted bulbs that burned your fingers. I miss them, but I understand. Technology changes things. But even if they're teeny, I have to have colored lights. This theme extends to other decorations.
I have an affinity for Christmas-schlock. The cheesier the better. A dancing Santa Claus with an electric guitar and sunglasses? Oh yes. Strings of lights that look like jalapenos? Lovely. Elves laid out in a winter North Pole Office Party display, holding little cans of Bud Light while singing drunken Christmas tunes? I am so there. And you have guessed the dark secret of Christmas in our home. My wife is not a colored lights kind of person. She is a white lights gal. I don't blame her, taste is subjective, right? Eye of the beholder and all that. We can coexist. We can cooperate, compromise, a little give here, a little take there. We'll find a way to get along. You know, the Russkies and the Americans. Detente baby.
limited edition strat and twin reverb amp ornament
Well, I was wrong so I didn't see it coming. It started with a new Christmas tree. She brought it home a few years ago. It's bigger than our old tree. 10 feet. It's frickin ginormous! Me, I'm all excited. What could be better than one Christmas tree? Two trees! Oh yeah, two sets of lights and ornaments and glitter, extra room for more presents. This will be so cool! I set the new tree up first. In the formal dining room, right there in the front window where everyone can see it. We decided the older tree would be just fine in the family room, we moved some things around and set it up there. Looked just fine. I didn't even notice when my wife pulled the strings of white lights out that something was amiss. 'Sure', I thought, 'woo... fan-cee'. What the heck. White lights on the new tree. Then I noticed we had packages (really nice packages, you know, the kind of shopping bags you keep cause they're so pretty?) with more ornaments in them. Impressive looking ornaments too, glass and crystal and gold. Wow. But hey, 10 foot tree, sure, we'll need more stuff to put on it. It was when I reached into a box to pull out my favorite lights, the string of little Fender Telecasters, and headed for the new tree, that the plan in its entirety was revealed to me. She said 'STOP right there!' evenly spacing her words using a tone of voice that said I should seriously consider stopping right there. 'There will be none of that on this tree', she said. Same tone. I said what most husbands say when they are confronted with possible wrongdoing. 'Wh-a-a-at?' Real slowly, dumb-like. 'No guitar lights. No old pictures. No jalapenos' she said.
And she was deadly serious. She looked right at me and announced 'this is the 'nice tree''.
The Nice Tree™. In the front room, prominently displayed in the big window. I looked around. The other decorations in the room began to make sense to me. The special Christmas china was set on the formal table. The expensive candle holders on the table by the entry, with long tapered white candles in them, you know, the kind you can't get at Wal-Mart (10 for .55 cents). And then I understood. This room, was going to be 'pretty'. Like a Christmas display at some expensive store on 5th Avenue, the ones whose names I can't pronounce correctly. I looked at what was now my tree. Guitar lights. Ornaments from Fender. The decorations my kids made in Sunday school with funny shaped noodles and gold spray paint. Popsicle sticks and yarn and pictures. Hidden in the family room where no eye shall be offended. No one can see it.
I began calling my tree the "Crap Tree".
The Nice Tree has gold swirly things on it, and a special tree skirt thingy made of silk and shiny stuff. It's really pretty. It looks like something you would find in one of those stores in Salado. The Crap Tree has an old skirt made of something that looks like shag carpet. It has a pattern that sort of resembles a Christmas tree, at least, the way a Christmas tree looks to a myopic drunk. In a moment of weakness my brother in law crocheted it for us. It's been more than 15 years and I still kick his ass about that.
II am not allowed to put my special guitar ornaments on the Nice Tree. Who am I kidding? I'm not allowed to put anything on the Nice Tree. Every now and then, I sneak one on it when no one is looking. It doesn't matter. My oldest daughter finds it and moves it back. At lease I'm not completely alone in my fight, my youngest daughter will take one of my ornaments and sneak it back on the nice tree.Occasionally sibling rivalry will overcome their natural tendency to gang up on you because of gender affiliation. Which is nice.
Olive, the other reindeer
She may relent. The Crap Tree has ornaments that have all our Christmas memories on it, 22 years worth. Decorations we bought when we spent our first Christmas together. Things our friends gave to us. Decorations that her students gave to her. Special ornaments with years on them from Christmases past that go back before our kids were born. Pictures of the girls when they were little in red and white Christmas dresses, hugging Santa and telling him how good they had been this year. So long ago, before cars and boys and college. Every now and then I find a little bit of attic insulation in one of the branches, from a Christmas years ago when I slipped in the overhead and put my foot through the ceiling, right over the tree. The youngest looked up and said 'Mommy, it's Santa'! I think she was 4. I love the Crap Tree. It is an old friend. It's the decoration in our house that says "Christmas" to me, and I hope it always will.
an idiot and his tree
Dave lives in Texas, where legislation is underway to outlaw Nice Trees. Because everything is gaudy in Texas. You can visit dave at his blog, Dave in Texas.