I’m celebrating my 66th Christmas this year and while decorating Christmas Tree #1, my mind was full of thoughts.
There are so many things I remember from those Christmas’s growing up. That was back in the day when we’d go out and get a real Christmas tree, mom would spend an entire day in the kitchen making her various Christmas cookies and treats and my dad put his wood-working skills to use and created Mr. & Mrs. Frosty and the snow kids. For a couple of years, my folks actually put this white fiberglass “snow” on their front yard, to give the illusion of a winter look in Southern California. It only took a couple of years that formerly pristine snow had the look of 6-week old dirty snow and went away.
For my very first Christmas, at just three months old, mom & I posed in front of their glorious tree by the big picture window in the living room.
In time, the tree was relegated to the office, which eventually became my bedroom.
In later years, it finally earned its spot back in the living room, but not always by the picture window.
Over in nearby Gardena, where I was born and around 15 minutes from my parents’ house, my dad’s relatives lived in a home where they had one of those tinsel trees with the rotating color light bulbs. It was a thing at the time.
You’d just set up one of these:
Hit it with one of these:
And it’s Christmas.
There are several events for me that help kick off the holiday season, but it isn’t until the Christmas tree is up and decorated that I feel the season coming on. To me, that signals commitment and a time-sensitivity, especially as you watch the tree dry out in record time from the moment you bring them inside.
Back in the 1980s, the Seattle P.I. had a writer named Ann Combs. When I was at KOMO radio, I got to interview her and she told me her story of how the Christmas tree worked at her house. From the time they could reach a branch, she would have the kids do all the decorating. Oh, sure, when they’re real young, the tree was only decorated for a couple of feet. But her thinking was, when they’re old enough and big enough to reach the top, it was time for them to move out.
At our house, Christmas Tree #1, as I mentioned above, is the artificial tree I bought at Lowes a decade or so ago. I went there the day after Christmas one year to see if I could score any screamin’ deals on Christmas decorations and they had a sign up that said: “9-Foot Westinghouse Trees $20.” I don’t know why they were blowing them out, but I actually checked with three employees before grabbing one, to make sure that sign was right. The original price was $259 or something like that.
So that’s the artificial tree in the house. Then, for our living room, we buy a shorter, real tree that goes up on a raised platform. Around 5-feet is perfect (and also, cheaper). That’s the upscale tree, with the fancy Norwegian ornaments, the clip-on candles and such. The normal routine is for me to decorate the one in our dining room and Victoria does her fancy one in the living room.
For me, that’s perfect. The dining room tree is where all the ornaments I like are hung with care. I’m talking Husky and Seahawk ornaments, some of the hand-made ones that have survived the years, and the ones that scream, “Oh, Tim must have decorated this one”–several Scottish ones, a Christmas pickle, a JP Patches and Gertrude ornament (a Seattle kids’ show host from the past), a Bigfoot ornament, my Santaur (looks like a cross between Santa and a….oh, let me just show you)
Plus, a bunch of cool Christmas ornaments from places Victoria and I have been over the years. Leavenworth, Alaska, Florida, etc. It’s a friggin’ thing of beauty!
As a public service, while decorating the tree this year, I took some mental notes and would like to offer these up just in case you’re about to tackle the tree-decorating chore in the next few days.
TIM’S TREE TRIPS
1) You always start with the largest ornaments on the tree, by carefully placing each in front of the burned-out lights you just can’t seem to figure out.
2) Always buy a new box of ornament hooks in November when they first show up. Oh, sure, you bought one last year, but good luck finding that one.
3) The best part about artificial trees is, if there’s a thin spot, you just bend the branches.
4) Well, and the fact you don’t need to water them.
5) Candy canes trim a tree nicely. I’ve been using the same ones for a decade now and should anyone steal one from the tree, I bear no legal responsibility for what happens.
6) When shopping for a tree, remember, the person helping you is trying to sell more trees. So, if you ask a question, they’ll probably going to tell you the answer they think you want to hear. For example, the classic one my wife always asks is, “Are these trees fresh?” The following response ranges from, “Oh, yeah, we just got ’em off the truck yesterday!” or “Absolutely! Sure. You bet!” without any qualifying for their statement or an explanation for why that “Hillary in 2016” bumpersticker is stuck between the branches.
While there are lots of parts of the Christmas celebration I can take or leave (did I SAY lutefisk?), I just gotta have my real Christmas tree. The watering, the needles, the price—yeah, I can understand why a lot of people have gone to fake or no trees at all. Maybe someday, I’ll have to opt out.
But for now, just give me my tree and no one gets hurt.