I don't think I've ever done this before. Today I have a guest post for you. Reader Dave sent me an email last night telling me the story of his fight to save his colored-lights Christmas tree from extinction - an extinction forced upon him by his wife's desire for a white-light Christmas tree. It's the age old story of beauty vs. the beast, except in this case, the beast is more desireable.
The story is in the extended entry. Dave writes a good tale - make sure to leave him some comments.
The Crap Tree
By Dave (dbrutland)
[click for larger image]
Several years ago my wife devised a plan to take over Christmas decorations in our home. She’s been oh so patient, moving so carefully that I only realized the scope of her plans 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.
I really dig Christmas.
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 pretty much know what’s inside of them. Not because I pack them up every January, I suppose it’s just that we tend to use the same boxes for things.
You could sum up my tastes 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 long ago gave up trying to find 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 naturally extends to other decorations. I have an affinity for Christmas-schlock. The cheesier the better. 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.
By now you may have guessed the dark secret of Christmas in our home. My wife, whom I love dearly, is not a colored lights kind of person. She is a white lights gal.
I don’t blame her… taste is subjective, no? Eye of the beholder and all that. But we can coexist. Surely we can cooperate, compromise, a little give here, a little take there. Find a way to get along. You know, the Russkies and the Americans. Détente baby.
So naturally 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. Huge. 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 cool!
I set it 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 den, 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 hell. 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. Fancy looking ornaments too, glass and crystal and gold. Wow. But hey, 10 foot tree, sure, we’ll need more stuff to put on it.
No, 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 was revealed to me. Pat said “STOP right there!”, evenly spacing her words in a tone 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 wrongdoing.
“Wh-a-a-at”? Real slowly, dumb-like.
“No guitar lights. No old pictures. No jalapenos”. She was 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 den 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 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 kid him about that.
I 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. Jessica, my oldest daughter, finds it and moves it back. When she’s not on duty her sister Abigail puts it back. All you guys understand this dynamic. It’s called "they gang up on you".
The Crap Tree has lights on it from The Hard Rock Café. I think those are my favorite, although the lights that look like jalapenos are a close second.
Ever since my wife debuted the Nice Tree, Christmas in our house has been looking a little different. The living room is starting to spread out. Our old Frosty the Snowman and Christmas tree hand towels we used to put in the guest bathroom have been replaced with much prettier hand towels. None of us is allowed to touch them. My “singing Santa” with the electric guitar and the sunglasses is now back in my bedroom on the dresser. The battery has been removed. This year I couldn’t find the Drunken Office Party Elves. Pat says she has no idea what happened to them. She says it in a way that makes me think she knows exactly what happened to them, and I will never see them again.
So I know what I’m up against. Soon, next year, or maybe the one after that, I could find myself locked in a desperate battle, a last stand in front of my dearest Christmas decoration, the Crap Tree.
She may relent. You see, the Crap Tree has ornaments that have all our Christmas memories on it, 22 years worth. Ornaments we bought when we spent our first Christmas together. Ornaments our friends gave to us. Decorations that Pat's students gave to her. Special ornaments with years on them from Christmases past that go back before our kids were born. Pictures of Jessica and Abigail when they were little girls 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. Abby looked up and said “Mommy, Santa’s here”! 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.
Thanks for sharing this story, Dave.