OUR MANAGEABLE LITTLE CHRISTMAS AND HOW IT GOT THAT WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was little, everyone’s trees were covered in tinsel and some fluffy white stuff. It imitated snow on the branches of your tree and placed judiciously, was quite lovely. The white fluffy stuff was banned because it was mostly fiberglass. It was lethal to pets and dangerous for people, too.

2003

As for tinsel, I think it was a cleanup issue. It got into everything. Animals ate it, including dogs, cats, and baby rug-rats. It did look very pretty, all silvery on the trees. It came in other colors too, but I don’t think most people really got “into” the pinks and oranges and blues.

From when I married Jeffrey in 1964, we had ‘real’ trees. It was a family thing, to get the biggest tree you could, then spend hours reconstructing it with saws and wires to make it look perfect

2015

Real Christmas trees weren’t expensive, either. Even though they made an awful mess (I was usually still trying to get those dried pine needles out of the wood floors a year later when the new tree was going up), it wasn’t a big deal to get a tree and there was a tree lot on every corner.

2017

Then one year — it must have been during the late 1970s — the price shot up and a tree that had cost $10 the previous year was $50 the next.

We still got a real one until the end of the 1970s when Jeff and I divorced and I moved to Israel.

2014

By the time I came back from Israel (August 1987), a $10 tree was $100. Garry and I bought got real ones for a few years when we had the townhouse in Boston. One was so perfect — and so WIDE — it took up the entire living room. The following year I tried to find an unreal tree that would fit into our actual space.

Christmas cactus – 2018

Then we moved here and since we live 5 doors down from an actual Christmas tree farm (which today I noticed is for sale, so there goes Arrowhead Farms!), you could choose your tree in August or September, watch it grow, then cut it down yourself immediately before you were ready to put it up. Talk about a FRESH tree.

I never had trouble putting up the tree and everyone was eager to help decorate it, but no one ever wanted to take it down or put away the decorations. We still had a tree standing one year on my birthday in March.

2016

We had a few more live ones after that, but the bloom was coming off the rose. Even a six-foot tree took up more room than we could really give it. There was nowhere to walk around it — and the dogs were always trying to eat the glass ornaments.

NO ONE wants their dogs eating glass anything, much less those fragile ornaments. Cats just liked to play with them, but the dogs liked a good hefty bite! Then, for a while, it became almost impossible to get glass ornaments. Some sort of national agreement that all decorations would be plastic.

A few years ago when my son and his family moved out, Garry and I realized we didn’t need gigantic trees. We started buying little real trees in pots on the theory that we could plant them in the spring, but they never survived long enough to plant. They dried out and died long before it was warm enough to plant anything.

2014 – The year of two small trees!

Finally, three years ago, I found the perfect fake 4-foot tree. It looks so much like a real tree, most people think it is real until they touch it and even then, they aren’t sure.  I had a lot of searching to do to find it.

Also, it is big enough to have some presence. It feels like a tree, not like a toy yet it is small enough to put on our huge coffee table on which we never serve coffee. The table really functions as a place to show off old pottery and other small decorative things because under the glass top is a shelf for “stuff.” And it’s big enough to sort the laundry.

2013

Thus we found a viable version of Christmas for us. It is big enough to be a Christmas but sufficiently small and neat to make it something we could do ourselves without winding up exhausted with a giant mess following the holiday.

I think our 4-foot always-decorated tree is perfect. It safeguards all our earlier Christmases and it’s ready in half a blink to take its place. From last year, it also has lights.

2018 again

There’s nothing religious — per se — about the tree but there is symbolism in it and continuity. It means something because we’ve always had some kind of Christmas. This is easy, pretty, painless … so we get to keep our personal history.

A very little, very pretty Christmas from us to you! And don’t forget: at least one of us is sort of Jewish, in a casual sort of way.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

10 thoughts on “OUR MANAGEABLE LITTLE CHRISTMAS AND HOW IT GOT THAT WAY – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. We have an artificial, six foot tree that looks real and is easy to store in the garage after the season is over. I like to keep it up until January 6. It takes me a half hour to decorate and then un-decorate. We also have artificial boughs on the mantel that stay there all year. We usually have poinsettias on the front porch, but at $13 a plant this year, we’re skipping it. The prices of real trees are way beyond my budget, and it seems the plants have doubled in price since last year. When I was still teaching, a couple of the students had a Christmas Tree lot, and Christmas Eve they gave away those left. That was my source for a tree for many years. One Christmas Eve afternoon, my daughter and I picked one up, strapped it to the top of my 1963 VW beetle, and it covered the whole car. We looked like just a tree was making its way down the roads home, and other driver were laughing at us. Have happy holidays with a lot of love and laughter.

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    1. The price of trees has gone WAY up. They are still selling very well, oddly enough especially among millennials — which is nice. Someone has to have a real tree. Even if I could afford it, we really don’t have room for it anyway and with the dogs, it makes a huge mess. So this tree is the right size and it’s pretty enough. The only “real plants” I have, I grow myself. Have a wonderful holiday too.

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  2. When we were living in Deep River we used to go out into the woods to find and cut our Christmas tree. I liked them when they were imperfect on one side so I could push into right into the wall and it didn’t protrude into the room too much. Now we have one of those artificial 4′ trees – easy up and easy down. Merry Christmas.
    Leslie

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  3. We used to get real ones but the Radiata Pines that were used as cut trees in South Australia did not survive the summer heat very well, they dropped pine needles everywhere and even in water the tree dried out rapidly, this is one reason I never decorate the house until a few days before Christmas, to be sure the tree still looked good at Christmas. Our cats thought the container was some new kind of litter tray too. Eventually, we decided to buy an artificial tree. It’s about 6 foot tall, I can put the angel on top without getting a step ladder if it is on the ground. Usually, I put it on a low table so that it is out of reach of pets. Strangely though it does shed little plastic pine needles every year. It’s THAT realistic.

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    1. You have listed all the reasons why we don’t get a “real” tree. Because although it isn’t hot outside, it’s heated — and very dry — inside. Even with daily watering, it dries out FAST. The cats thought it was a litter box. The dog think it’s a fire plug. And it made a godawful mess. Eventually, even the fake trees need to be replaced, but they last a lot longer than a real one!

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