When my brothers and I were growing up, our neighbors across the street from us had an 80’s style modern house that was so grand it was used as the back drop for a car commercial. They had a projection TV, a Bang & Olufsen stereo system, and little wipers on the headlights of the family car. They took lavish family vacations to Hawaii and Vail. They held an annual Christmas party with professional entertainment. Every year, just before the party, these neighbors had a 12 foot Noble pine delivered and professionally decorated. As I look back, with 30 years between me and the actual tree, I’m blown away at the grandness of it. I remember that it took 5 men to carry it in the door and stand it up straight….and at least a day for the team to wind all the twinkly white lights tightly on the perfect branches….that smelled of minty fresh pine. It was just breath-taking, all gold and crystal sparkle, with every ornament professionally placed in just the right spot. But at the time, I felt sorry for them, there was So much empty space between the branches ……
My parents bought our family tree at Sears in the late 60’s. By the time I was 14, it was the color of very old cabbage and smelled like dust. It had bristly bottle-brush branches that poked under my fingernails when I tried to assemble it. The lights we just draped around like popcorn (with no particular color order) some pink, some red, some multi colored with tiny plastic reflectors, and some were injected into the plastic forms of severed Santa and reindeer heads. We wound colored tinsel garland around the ends of every branch until the entire tree was a 7 foot cone of mismatched foil sparkle. Our ornaments were far from a theme…more of an anti-theme. There were styrofoam clowns and circus animals that my mother bought at a “fancy” store when she was a newly wed, plastic sugared candy baskets that were almost too heavy for the branches, pipe cleaner limbed elves with the paint chipping off their faces, and of course all the “odd ball” things kids make to put on the family Christmas tree….(out of popsicle sticks, egg cartons, glitter and play-dough). After an entire evening of cramming the poor little tree there wasn’t a single empty spot of cabbagy green poking through the clutter…
…and I thought it was just Glorious.
And so the dice were cast…..
There are probably enough ornaments for a tree twice as tall….
On Thanksgiving night , I pull the mummy of a tree out of the garage for a through fluffing and to make sure the lights all work. She always goes in a galvanized wash tub.
Just like the bushes outside our house, the tree has 3 kinds of lights too …..white B-lights, red pearls that look like berries, and C-7’s that end in a bubble light on the tip of every branch. It’s harder and harder to find the bubblers now…I found a few sets on Ebay this past year..so I’ve got enough for replacements for the next couple of years.
I hang vintage spinners over the big lights to make them spin from all the heat. Inside the tree, I snap UFO shaped light covers on the interior lights, and hang the bigger ornaments that would dominate the outside branches. I string on garlands until she is dripping with them like an old dowager….
The glass ornaments I’ve been collecting for about 20 years now, They are Polish, German, Czech and Italian. They take a long time to place…even though they pretty much end up over lapping in the end (of course)…. I have about 6 tubs of glass ornaments, each individually wrapped in bubble, throughout the year. We have been keeping them in the master bathroom shower, because it is climate controlled …and we currently don’t use it (honestly, I don’t think either of us could fit in it, but if fits 6 tubs of ornaments just fine ).
The final layer is a coating of tinsel icicles…I love the way they sparkle. Not really sure how long it takes to complete our tree…but I can tell you that while we were putting it together we watched 2 Bond films, Super 8, and White Christmas…and still weren’t finished.
And how do I know when it’s finished?……because there isn’t any space left between the branches.
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