Sunday, December 25, 2011

Decorating the Christmas Tree

For the first time in years, Terry and I decided to buy a live Christmas tree. Neither of us had seen any tree tents in our travels around town. I did notice a fireworks tent still up on Colonial Drive. I guess they will do a brisk business for New Years Eve. Terry was raised Jewish but she loves decorating the tree even more than I do. The first order of the day was to pack the back of my truck full of old computer monitors, a fax machine and and several dead car batteries. We dropped everything off at a recycling center on McCoy Road. As I drove, Terry asked friends on Facebook where they got their trees. I think Tracy Burke is the one who directed us to go to Home Depot.

A tent was set up in the Home Depot parking lot. When we walked in, the pine needle smell was intoxicating. Terry seemed to think I would be a tree expert since I grew up with the tradition. They all looked good however. We finally settled on a seven foot Douglas Fir. It was a little mushed on one side but that imperfection gave it character. We were given a ticket and we payed inside the garden center. Terry couldn't resist picking up some purple Begonias, her favorite flower as well. The tree was packed in a tight nylon net. I backed up the truck and opened the back, hoping the tree would fit inside. The trunk was thrust between the front seats almost touching the windshield. When I sat behind the steering wheel, I had to lean against the door. The sweet smell of pine needles filled the truck.

Getting the tree to stand straight in the stand was a chore. Terry held the tree as I tightened the bolts into the trunk. There was no way to check if it was standing up straight. When Terry let go and backed up to take a look, the tree fell over. I realized there were too many branches near the base so she got me some garden shears to cut them away. I tightened the bolts in a second time, having them puncture the trunk in a new spot. This time the tree stood its ground.

Using a ladder, I climbed up into the attic space above the garage where the Christmas lights and ornaments are stored in moving boxes. We unpacked the boxes in the kitchen, looking first for the lights. Foot long strands of green wire and tiny colorful incandescent bulbs fell out on the floor. Something was wrong. I neatly wind the Christmas lights around a red hanger but they were falling away in pieces. We discovered rats had chewed through the wires. I started throwing away the wires that had been chewed through. I tested the few strands remaining and only the last one partially lit up. I lay it out on the floor and plugged it in. Only half the strand was lit. I started replacing bulbs one at a time trying to revive the lights. Those little suckers are hard to take out. After a dozen bulb tests, I gave up, pronouncing the final strand DOA.

We went to a Walgreen's and got 3 boxes of the old fashioned larger bulbs. These are the types of bulbs I grew up with. I was in charge of putting the lights on the tree. When I was done, I settled back and sketched while Terry put up the ornaments. Amanda Chadwick stopped over with Baxter, her adorable, but skittish Dachshund. It took Baxter quite a while to notice Zorro, our cockatoo on his perch. When he did notice him, his ears bristled and his eyes grew wide as he thought, "Toy!" We were short on ornaments and I had to crawl back up in the attic to recover a box that had been moved by workmen running cables up there. Inside was a treasure trove of old ornaments. Terry would hold each one up and announce, "Oh, look at this one! Oooh!" Amanda napped on the couch with Baxter. We had plenty of Marti Gras beads that came back with us from New Orleans and the Gay Pride Parade. Amanda twisted the beads creating wonderful little stars. She showed me how to do it and together we created dozens of stars. Matt Simantov checked in from Seattle via Skype.

I warmed up a bottle of German mulled wine which was sweet and delicious. When the tree was fully decorated, we ordered a pizza and basked in its warm glow while listening to world beat music.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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