Monday, November 29, 2010

On the First Day of Christmas

Since Herb and I perform in the Reagle Music Theatre’s annual production of “It’s ChristmasTime” every year, which runs the first two weekends of December and which generally involves us hosting a cast party, we always put up our Christmas decorations on the weekend after Thanksgiving. And by “Christmas decorations”, I don’t mean just the Christmas tree. We transform the entire house into a Christmas wonderland, inside and out. The top of the piano hosts an entire Christmas village, complete with a carousel, children throwing snowballs, a swan pond, a trolley, a theater, and a cobblestoned footbridge. The mantelpiece is filled with greens and berries and glitter-adorned candles, with an array of nutcrackers standing at attention. We drape swags of greenery over the entryway, across the living room ceiling, over the banisters, and around the mirror in the front hallway. The sideboard is cleared of its usual array of wineglasses and candlesticks to make room for the manger and the Magi. The chandelier gets bedecked with festive red bows. White icicle lights twinkle from the eaves. Wreaths adorn every door. And of course, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

But the crowning glory is always the Christmas tree. We are among the diehards who refuse to give in to an artificial tree. The feel, the scent, the imperfections and variations from year to year just can’t be imitated by an artificial tree. So we made our annual trek to Seasons Four in Lexington to get the complete tree-picking experience. We began by grabbing an unused flatbed cart in the parking lot, plopping Ryan onto it, and then making our way through rows and rows of fragrant green trees until we reached the section with the hardy Fraser firs. I love the rich smell of the balsams and the dusty color of the blue spruces, but when you put your tree up as early as we do, nothing beats the longevity of a Fraser fir. So while Ryan attempted to eat the red berries that were rolling across the flatbed, Herb pulled out tree after tree and we evaluated each one for symmetry, fullness, height, freshness, and overall personality. We soon found a lovely tree that had a beautiful shape and was full without being too big around for our room, and I evicted Ryan from his throne on the flatbed so Herb could have the tree trimmed and wrapped for the trip home. While he was doing that, Ryan and I went to visit the alpacas and the baby goats at the back of the tree lot. Ryan was more interested in the other children who were feeding the animals than he was in the animals themselves, but once he was standing nose to nose with a little grey goat who licked his fingers hoping for a treat, he got a little more interested.

It was getting a bit chilly by then, so we went inside to warm up for a few minutes and to check out all the theme trees inside. Ryan’s eyes were like saucers as he contemplated tree after tree full of twinkling white lights and glittering ornaments. We even found a Sesame Street-themed tree featuring Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar, Big Bird, and of course, his buddy Elmo. But leave it to Ryan, even as we were checking out the Sesame Street tree, he looked over my shoulder and announced, “K! K! K!” (which means “clock”, his latest obsession). I told him that no, there weren’t any clocks in here, but then I peered into the corner where he was pointing and wouldn’t you know, there was a clock with a 6-foot wide face. So we stood in front of that clock for a while as his face lit up with the wonder that is usually reserved for seeing the full stockings on Christmas morning, or sitting on Santa’s lap.

Eventually we tore him away from the clock and headed back home to unload the tree. We weren’t sure how he’d react to all the chaos and temptation of decorating the tree, so we waited until he was in bed to put up the tree and start decorating it. I’ll admit it: decorating the tree is my very favorite part of Christmas. And I especially love our tree, because we created a very special tree all our own just before we were married. I was living in an apartment with a cat who would have decimated a Christmas tree, so we decorated his house together. I don’t remember exactly what inspired us, but we decided to do a bird-themed tree, using glass icicles and baubles, snowflakes, pine cones, and every kind of bird ornament we could find. We cover the tree with hundreds and hundreds of tiny white lights and don’t use any tinsel or garlands (I’m a tinsel girl who hates garlands and Herb’s a bead/garland guy who hates tinsel – it was a very convenient compromise). We have dozens of feathered cardinal ornaments that add splashes of red everywhere, with a few bright blue jays, a goldfinch or two, a couple of robins, and even a jeweled hummingbird adding a dash of color here and there. The result, in my opinion, is breathtaking and glorious:


The crystal snowflakes, baubles, and icicles move gently with the warm air currents, catching the light and adding a gentle, ever-changing glimmer to the tree.

The cardinals nestling cozily into the crook of a limb, the chickadees perched pertly on the tips of branches, the blue jays seeming to cock their heads and fix their dark eyes on the observer, the majestic pheasant, the graceful dove, the proud peacock, the goldfinch flashing its bright gold feathers, the owls peeking wisely and watchfully from their perches, all the birds bring such a sweet, natural, peaceful beauty to the tree.

And so our bird tree is once again the centerpiece of our Christmas décor. It is festive, elegant, simple, and beautiful. And I hope it still will be when we have to put the playpen around it to protect it from a curious one-year-old who is just a bit too fascinated by it for his own good.


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