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Saturday Guest Blogger Story: The Crap Christmas Tree

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.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Saturday Guest Blogger Story: The Crap Christmas Tree:

» Guest Bloggers Are All the Rage, and I Started It from IMAO
Michele of A Small Victory has a guest blogger, and there is something really cool about him that I can't... [Read More]

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A tale of two trees at A Small Victory. Dave from Texas fights to save the tree with personality, the one with lighted Stratocasters and chilies. But where are the bubble lights? http://www.bettyschristmashouse.com/lights/bubble.htmlinkhttp://as... [Read More]

» Tuesday morning link-fest from IgwanaRob
Who runs the Christmas decorating in your house? Guest-blogging over at ASV, Dave from Texas tells a great tale of how his extremely cool family-centric "Crap Tree" has been forced into the back of... [Read More]

» Three cheers for "Crap Trees" from Poisoning Pigeons
I read Dave's story about the battle between his "Crap tree" and his wife's new "Pretty tree" over at A Small Victory. I can relate to Dave's story because I have a pretty tree. It's not by choice. The family ornaments that I inherited whe... [Read More]


Tearing up here with both TGLOL and sentimental goo. While I happen to be a tiny-white-light person myself -- they are like twinkling stars -- I am in awe of those like you who make me see beyond the glitz to the true meaning of the Crap Tree. Oh, and for that Xmas-themed T.P., just google "Christmas toilet paper" -- here's one of the first that came up: HO HO toilet paper especially for Christmas 6 rolls

Right on the money, Dave. mrs. rdr's "Nice Tree" is festooned with the little white lights and cloth ornaments and ribbons in shades of pink(!) and golds. The "family tree" is a complete mess of colored lights, Santas in boats and cars and airplanes and twenty five years of assorted kid-crafted stuff. I really don't think about the "Nice Tree" much, however, as it's in the living room - place I never visit anyway.

I'm not really impressed with the nice tree but where is the picture of the crap tree. I say you do away with both.

Fabulous! I will be forwarding this to my white light mother and mooning-Frosty the Snowman suction cupped to the window of his Chevy Impalla father at once. Merry Christmas, you're a dying breed (sadly) and I'm glad you could document this fading phenomenon.

I think Dave- wearing his "Nuke the Moon" shirt and point at the pretty tree, pretty much sums up what he'd like to do with that tree! And, really, it looks BORING. I have white lights on our tree ... but strung popcorn, and a million handmade ornament too - my fav this year is the construction paper ringlet-things. STAY strong, Dave. (I did have a few nice-glass ornaments, but most of those broke when my tree feel OVER last week.)

Thanks Michele, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

My dear bride wanted me to point out what you have already noticed, that the tree in the pic is actually the “Nice Tree”.

Pretty, isn’t it?

For those of you who would like to see the Crap Tree, you will find it here,
and here.

Merry Christmas everyone!

BOOFUL, Ed, but it doesn't have to be either or. It isn't a red/blue thing.

Who is this Dave? Ah, Dave in Texas!.. one of the last of the non-blogger, heavy commenters.... Great post.

I like the 'Crap Tree' - it has personality. The 'Nice Tree' looks like something found in a catalogue.

Dave, you are our kinda guy. The kinda guy that keeps all the old traditions alive. And I'd betcha your kids will remember your tree longer than the "nice tree". And when you die, we'll put a crap tree on your grave every year, just for you.
Hang in there, and if you need reinforcements for the tree war, just call all of us, and we'll put 5 of them on your lawn.

Which tree will the kids REALLY remember years from now? The pretty but staid one? Or the one with their own hand-made ornaments, electric guitar lights (I love them!) and chili pepper lights? Conformity is boring! Viva la difference!

Gotta love the popsicle-stick ornaments :)

God bless your sense of honor, loyalty, nostalgia, and romanticism.

Merry Christmas all!

Loved your story, Dave, and I agree with the others...the "Nice" tree is nice, but the "Family" tree will be the one that your kids will remember the most.

Yeah, I love the crap tree. I guess I'm a colored-lights type. I sometimes prefer the white lights for external decoration, but when it comes to the tree, I'm all for handmade ornaments and wacky lights.

My mother has gotten the "nice" (read: expensive) ornaments since we left home, but though they're expensive and tasteful, she mixes them right in with the construction paper ornaments we had made in elementary school. Our old ornaments shall surely die, but now there is a grandkid (and two more to come), so the supply of kid-made ornaments shall not die.

Fight the good fight!

I am in awe.

Long live The Crap Tree!

God bless your soul, man!

Ouch Dave! That hurt! I just bought a "nice tree" this year (white and shimmery Martha Stewart tree) and this kids are afraid to put anything on it because I start in with the "Ack, ack ack ack, nu nu nu nu noooooooooooo! Glass ornaments only! Sigh!" Crap, I think I've become the Tree Nazi! That probably explains why my 4 year old son has been hiding behind the tree and actually BREAKING my precious ornaments, the little sabatoeur! I'll have to run out and get them a little Charlie Brown tree this week (promised them a "live" one, although shouldn't they be called a "dying" tree?) so they'll stay away from mine!

Beautiful story, Dave. I got a little misty reading it.

I've always loved Christmas, but since starting my own family, I've been trying to recapture the magic it held for me when I was a kid. Your story might have clued me in to that missing piece--colored lights.

I remember trees with those hot, fat, multicolored lights hanging from the branches like fruit, as if they'd been stolen from a farm run by Willy Wonka. I remember "camping" by those trees, drifting off to sleep with those wondrous hues melting slowly to black behind my closed eyelids. I remember how beautiful it all was, and I think, "When the hell did I become a 'white lights' person?"

Thank you, Dave, for the clarity. You are the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future in one person. And I, like Ebenezer Scrooge, rejoice that it is not too late to give my children a Christmas of multi-colored lights, just as they ought to have.

When I was a kid, we not only had those big fat colored lights on our tree, but a few larger ones interspereed at intervals....they fit into the same sized socket, but they were round, about the size of a small rubber ball, and they were encrusted with pieces of glass. I remember pale blue, amber, white and green - not sure if there were any red ones - and the overall effect made them look like they were frosted with pieces of cracked ice. Beautiful.

I used to camp out under the tree too Guncrazy. One of my best kid memories.

Don't feel badly jonag, I tease my wife good naturedly about all this. She really loves the Crap Tree too. I'm glad she has a nice tree, it makes her happy.

But she never liked my Drunk Office Party Elves. Ever.

Thanks for the kind words everyone, and Merry Christmas. And Michele, thank you for posting my story. You made my day.

sniffle That was the best Christmas story I've ever read. Keep sneaking your sentimental "crap" onto the good tree!

What is wrong with drunk elves? NOTHING!
Anyway, good story Dave bring the fight to the "FANCY TREE"!

So we went out for Mex' tonight; the "usual place" over near the corner of 65th St & Folsom Blvd. Great food; they make honest-to-gawd homemade tortillas by hand! They know us there; they're nice, we like 'em back. I can wear Levi's and tenny's and a tee (or cargo shorts in summer), and not feel out-of-place.

Upon leaving (it's still COLD - well, for California - and foggy tonight: big 70-car pile-up up on I80 earlier today) ....

Wife: "Hey, why don't we drive through mid-town? Renee (at work) told me there's a really nice neighborhood display on 42nd St."

Me: "Uh ...okay" (she bought dinner ...and it's Xmas ...why not).

Not much traffic. Everyone in mosey-mode. We take a left off Folsom Blvd on 42nd into the Fab Forties (yeah, buncha pocket mansions, mainly, built back in the 1940's is my surmise ...nice neighborhoods, really).

Wife: "Ooh. It's pretty. See, Renee was right."

Me: "Well ...it's ...white fer sure." Blindingly white. Star Wars "entering warp speed" white. Tinkly scintillating San Fran Gay Designer attitudinal white. "Ya see any, well, colours? Anywhere?"

Wife: "***."

We drive up and down - oh, I dunno, maybe four or five blocks. Three houses. Three. Houses. Of. Colour.

Multi-cultural variety apparently does NOT extend to the front yards of America at Christmas. In the Fab Forties, at least.

Sigh. I finally give it up (I'm sure I'm suffering from retinal burn anyway), take the "Bike Route" street (M St) "Down the Center" (of the FF's) to where M St jags on 58th in the much less rarified real estate neighborhoods of actual working folk, then right and then left past the big Catholic church.

From the church it's a straight shot for the final 6 blocks or so of M St, then left on 62nd and left onto Elvas ...and on to home. But ...as we make the turn ....

...there ...IT ...is. The House. You know: The Christmas House. Colours splashed by the fog. Lit up like a glorious Christmas Carnival of Colours. The prismatic splendiferous colours of childhood. Fat colours. Glorious colours. Yeah, sure, there's the moving reindeers that're white (never seen one in colours anywhere in retaildom anyways, so how can ya be critical about that), but there's REAL COLOURS everywhere. Along the porch. Up and down the porch. Inside the porch. UNDER the porch. Around the windows. Along the beams, the roof, the trees. Santa's above the porch; I can tell he's happy.

I'm happy too.

Dave? - There's real trees for real folks, and there's designer trees, I dunno, maybe for mannequins or someone elses. Thanks for sharing your real tree ...and for my second Christmas smiles of the evening.

well, I have always wanted a nice tree, but after this story, I'm never going to do it. We have the big colored lights, but what makes my husband really, really happy are the bubble lights - I bought him 6 strands of them one year for Christmas - you should try them, I think they would add to the decor...

I tell you where you lost this war. It was with the children. Had you enough foresight to enlist them to your side, they'd be helping you put your Elvis ornaments on the Nice Tree™ instead of ratting you out.

This is a case of failed parenting, pure and simple.

Mine are still young (9, 7, 5 & 4). I'm working them toward a dog. The wife is dead-set against it. They will be my pawns in this intricate chess game. I've already played every "guilt" card I can think of with respect to myself ("I should have had a prenup!", "You mean to tell me I'll never have another dog as long as I live?", etc.). I'm working up to the children's disappointment. And it will work!

You must fight for the heart and soul of the children.

I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty a multicolored tree pocesses in the den. Give them a sense of bling!

My tree and my parent's tree looks an awful lot like the crap tree. :) It's beautiful!

Only my tree only has 5 years of memories on it. The ornaments from hawaii when we were there for thanksgiving when I was pregnant. The ornaments my MIL made for us for our first christmas because we were too poor to buy enough ornaments to cover a tree -- we have angels made out of ribbon and pasta, and clothespin reindeer, and all that stuff. We have a few ornaments I made as a little girl with my grandma. I can't wait until our tree is as beautiful as the crap tree. :)

Though, when I was little, we did have a second tree in the den, that just the kids decorated. All the trashiest of the non-sentimental ornaments were sent down there. ;) But hey, it was a big house, with four kids. We needed 2 trees! And all the sentimental ones stayed on the "real" tree in the living room.

I love Christmas!!

Oh! And I remember the huge, round, encrusted light bulbs! There is still one, though it's the foam-covered kind, remaining on my parents tree. That little bulb must be 20 years old...

My current tree has the big bulbs (not those little ones -- it takes too long to get enough of them on the tree!!), split halfway between bulb-shaped bulbs and globe-shaped bulbs. And two of the 11 strings of them flash. Only two. :)


Target has those lights, Dave, big painted bulbs that scream Christmas.

One set'll give your tree a nice, sparsely lit look. Two will fill your tree with huge multicolored lights.

Those teeny ones are for the kids room trees.

I think the "nice" tree is like the perfect Christmases that we all strive for, but your "crap" tree is like the Christmases we actually have--something we cherish because we share them with our imperfect families. Happy holidays!

Good to know Jack. I also know 6 of those strings of big ol lights will set the tree on fire (they pull 120 watts per string).

Personal experience.

Fender Telecaster Christmas lights? Oh, man, are you great, or what?
You need the big, colored, heat sending lights, fer sure. I mean, what's going to set the propeller kind of blade thingy to turning inside the 50's ornament that looks like a carousel, but the prop instead of horses? Keep up the struggle.
Great story.

Oh, help! Stop encouraging the man, already! Every time someone suggests a new kind of light, he's off to the store again.

When I opened the back blinds in our family room, the neighbors down the hill thought all the lights were a UFO.

We've got four strings of little colored lights, two strings of guitars, a string of Hard Rock Cafe signs and two strings of chili peppers, for cryin' out loud. It looks like the Aurora Borealis threw up in our living room.

It's Christmas, guys. Have a little pity on a poor housewife...before my house catches on fire.

After seeing the "crap tree" I have discovered the true meaning of christmas. The "ice tree" was cold and forbearing. I have decided to kick the Grinch out and get back in touch with my family.

BTW: Did you see those new lights that look like flickering flames.

ooooooo, yeah Scrooge, I did. With the bubbles even!

YIKES! I'm busted!

I am trying to think of a nice way to point out that your wife is doing the world a great service. ;-)

My favorite Christmas tree lights were the ones with the little tinsel wreaths or tinfoil stars around them. Beautiful with either all GOLD (NOT white) or multicolored mini-lights. Anyone else remember those?