Wednesday, December 07, 2011

O, Christmas Trees!

MY WIFE bought me a Christmas tree. It is silver and shiny and I love it.

There will be a photo later. Be patient. In the meantime, here are a few of the Christmas trees I've known and loved.

This is not my new shiny silver tree. This is a really old shiny silver tree. It belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa, on my Mother's side, and the first time I saw it, I thought they had both lost their marbles. My eight-year-old brain could not process the idea of a tree that wasn't green, smelling of pine, and otherwise real and traditional. I was a staunchly conservative eight-year-old. Anyway, there it was in their living room, with the only lights on it coming from one of those spinning disks of color (which is not seen in that photo, but here's one, anyway...)

(MY WIFE also bought one of these for use with my shiny new silver tree. You'll see the whole shebang later, I promise.)

Well, once I got used to my grandparent's weird aluminum tree, it was kind of cool and I looked forward to seeing it each year. Having such a thing in a house full of people who love you - and give you presents - will tend to make you like it more, I think. I've had fond memories of it for many years, but the last remaining vestige of the thing is the photo I showed you. The tree itself is long gone.

(But, I have a shiny NEW tree of silver, AND a color wheel! Hang on, pardner! We'll get to it.)

The person standing next to this somewhat odd-looking bush is Aunt Pat, my great aunt, sister of my grandfather on my father's side, a.k.a. Aunt Agnes to some others in the family. You may ask why she was Aunt Pat to me and Aunt Agnes to others. It seems that she did not actually care for the name Agnes, and had decided that she would prefer Patricia. I never knew she had the name "Agnes" until I was a teenager, so she was apparently pretty successful in convincing me that her name was Pat.

(Aunt Pat had an outstanding physical characteristic that I found utterly fascinating as a child - one of her eyes was a milky sort of light blue, while the other was hazel or brown. This came about via an accident at the eye doctor. He mistakenly put ether into her eye and she was immediately blinded on that side, permanently. To show you the non-litigious nature of things in those days, she did not immediately sue him for everything he owned, which she no doubt would have had a chance at if she had sued, but instead just chalked it up to a human mistake and went on with her life. Can you imagine that happening now? No, neither can I, not even at Christmas.)

This Christmas tree was at my paternal grandparent's apartment in Roslindale. From the curtains, the wallpaper, and the date on the back of the photo, I'd say it was 1961.

One of the things I always liked about the Sullivan side of my family is that they were mostly not sticklers for symmetry. Whatever branches the tree came with would likely remain with the tree for the duration. Also, if a bigger clump of tinsel was on one of the branches than was on any of the others, so what? Live and let live (and if you don't like it, drink until you do) was the motto. Notice the clump of branches hanging over the doorway. Waste not, want not (especially when it comes to the drinks) was another motto.

(I don't want to leave you with the impression that they were a bunch of total drunken inebriates. They weren't. They were wonderful people whom I dearly loved. Many of them did enjoy their alcoholic beverages, though, and that sort of thing does tend to bring out the beauty in sparkly things and perhaps lead to pinning up the trimmings over the door frame. For what it's worth, I think it's a lovely tree, and I'm disgustingly sober at the moment.)

From my childhood in Dorchester comes this photo of the best use for any tree, as a giant toy for a cat to play with. Another shot of the same thing...

I could watch that sort of action hours at a time when I was a kid. Heck, I'd love it now. I'm still easily amused.

A tree of more recent vintage, perhaps 1995. You'll notice that I took the classic Sullivan approach to things like trimming off branches and distributing the tinsel evenly.

Actually, I did prune this tree a bit. When I got it home, I discovered that it was too tall for our room. I had to cut about six inches off of the trunk. The problem was, the only tool I had to work with was a coping saw. If you're not familiar with what a coping saw looks like, here's a photo of one.

Notice the very thin blade. A coping saw is used to make intricate cuts in mostly thinner pieces of wood. It is not meant to take the place of a rip or crosscut saw, the types usually used to tackle such things as logs, which is basically what I was cutting. Also, a coping saw blade builds up heat very quickly and snaps very easily because of it.

It took me a good 45 minutes and I went through four blades. I think I lost two pounds in sweat and five years off of my life due to the aggravation. My hands were covered in pine resin and as sore as if I were a 112-year-old arthritic. Of course, I could have hopped down to the hardware store and bought a big cheap saw for about ten bucks, saving myself a half-hour, but what's the fun in that?

This was the year that we used Pointy The Poinsettia as our Christmas tree.

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't re-run that story yet, as is my wont, and instead only gave a link to it here. I hate to break the news this way to those of you who may be fans of Pointy and who hadn't yet heard the news, but Pointy, alas, is no longer with us. He went to poinsettia heaven, a couple of years back, due to a case of root rot. I had been so successful in anthropomorphizing him, even to myself, that I actually cried when I put his remains out for the trash pickup. Anyway, it just seems wrong to re-run the story, with its happy ending, since I know he's gone. What can I say? I'm a sentimental goof.

My office manager, Kim, knew how I felt and she gifted me with the altogether wonderful replacement, Simon Peter Poinsettia...

... who is, I'm happy to report, still living (but will not be the Christmas tree this year since I have a SHINY NEW SILVER TREE, which, yes, sooner or later I'll get to here.)

Last year's bunch o' tree. And here are a couple of previous incarnations...

MY WIFE once worked in retail. She had an opportunity to snag five trees of varying heights that had been in window displays. For most of the past ten years, we've used those five trees (or random combinations of them) for our Christmas tree. But now, I've got a SHINY NEW SILVER TREE!!! and I guess it's about time I showed it to you, so here it is!

Sorry... My shiny old silver digital camera bit the dust somehow over the past few days. Even though I've scoured the manual, I can't figure it out. It won't take a charge, it won't do anything at all. It flashed an error message once, but before I could read it, it conked out completely. So, no photo. But now you know something you could get me for Christmas, if you feel the desire, so this whole thing was worthwhile, I suppose.

(I would have preferred ending with that sorry excuse for a joke, but I have the sinking feeling that, if I leave you with that last line, one or two of you might actually go out and buy me a camera, or maybe send me one you have lying around. While I would certainly appreciate that generous gesture, please don't do it. With my utter lack of skill as a photographer, it would be similar to sending sheet music to Roseanne Barr. I don't want that sort of pressure for future ignominy.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. I almost forgot! Inspiration for this post came from Growing Up In Waldron and Down Silly Rabbit's Hole. So there.


IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

This is the best shaggy Christmas tree story I've read today

Jeni said...

How I do love to read your stories! The bit about the coping saw reminded me of the year when my son was trying, without success, to get our tree in to the stand and decided he needed to trim it off around the bottom a bit. No saw for him though. Nope! He "borrowed" the carving knife to my very good set of knives (made by CUTCO, for anyone familiar with them, they cost an arm and a leg) and eventually did trim a bit of the base of the tree but in the process, trimmed a good bit from my knife too! (A lot of blue air and four-letter words accompanied his work that night as well!) Shortly after that, I switched to using an artificial tree.)

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

I just may post a Christmas tree story that I just remembered.
I have a bow saw for trimming the base of the tree. It's a little better than a coping saw. A chain saw works best.
Good story... sorry about your camera.

Brighton Pensioner said...

Are you sure you wouldn't like my spare camera? It wouldn't cost you much.

Maggie May said...

You tell a good tale.
The photos of Christmases past are lovely.
I liked the one that had rows of teddies sitting along the wall.

I have a shiny silver Christmas tree!

Maggie X

Nuts in May

messymimi said...

Where's the fun, indeed? It's in reading your story about Christmas trees, of course.

Enjoy whatever tree you happen to have this year.

Anonymous said...

Ah Pointy, we loved you so....

And I'm making this my own family motto: If you don't like it, drink until you do.

And if they don't like it, I'll drink until...wait.. umm...

PS: Borrow a camera! We WANT to see the silver tree!!!

Jackie said...

I'm happy to hear about S.P. Poinsettia! Welcome to the family. What a wonderful family you've been brought into.
You are such a tease, Jim.
I was looking forward to seeing your tree with the colorwheel....
I'd tell you to take a photo of it with your cell phone...but.
Always a good read here....always.

silly rabbit said...

Ha! I love the variety of trees here and the creativity! We all get funny about our trees in our own ways. But I am so sad to hear of Pointy's passing! Welcome to Simon Peter Poinsettia! I do love his name. =:]

I think the big thing about Christmas trees is that we get to enjoy something we love that gives us a connection to family and the past. You just can't decorate one without good feelings.

Sorry about the camera... you tease! Maybe Santa will bring you one in time to get pics.

Thank you for the link. I am honored and pleased. Enjoy your shiny silver tree and color wheel light!

Chris said...

Wow, you just jogged a long-forgotten Christmas memory for me. My grandma also had one of those color-wheels that she aimed at here silvery tree. I had totally forgotten, and that was one of the unique features of Christmas at Grandma's.

Well, that and the Foot Fixer.


Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I think its absolutely gorgeous that new shiny silver tree of yours! Of course I'm not exactly sparklingly sober at the moment so it could be that I'm seeing things...

Buck said...

I inherited my mother's... umm... distaste for aluminum Christmas trees. She would use the most un-ladylike language at the mere sight of one in a neighbor's living room window, and there many such in the late '50s and early '60s. I guess that kinda stuck with me. Or mebbe her outbursts traumatized me. Whatevah. I don't like 'em, but taste is all in our mouths, innit?

So. I shall drink until I DO like yer tree, as I imagine it. Digital cameras are pretty danged cheap these days, Jim. Go buy one.

Mich said...

Very lovely trees!!!

I can't wait to see the new tree. Hope none of the lights are blinking. :D


Michelle H. said...

Beautiful trees throughout the years.

Out of curiosity, is that Blackie the cat playing with the tinsel? I seem to recall you had a cool cat that wasn't black. And I'm not referring to a jazz player, as I suppose you can misunderstand the "cool cat" expression back in those days.

Hilary said...

As much as I enjoyed seeing and reading about the Christmas trees past, I got quite a kick out of recognizing certain games of days gone by. Fun post, Jim.. but I really wanna see your new tree!

Karen said...

Nice Christmas tree memories. My gardener has every tool imaginable and what do I reach for when I need to "fix" something? A butter knife :)

Bill Yates said...

Jim, wonderful as usual, and great pics. Even though I can't see your new silver Christmas tree, I can imagine the one that used to be in The Ladies and Mens Shop in downtown Waldron back in 1964. Thanks so much for the link, and also the link to Silly Rabbit; I've been enjoying reading her posts very much!

Suldog said...

Michelle - Yes, that's Blackie! Good memory!

Reena said...

A fun story! I remember those shiny silver trees and the rotating lights in my grandparents living room each christmas. Fun to see them again in your photos!

Anonymous said...

I loved taking the tour of your trees. I confess that I'm not a huge fan of aluminum trees, although I can appreciate them for their vintage quality. However, since I was allergic to real trees, it's the kind I grew up with, so I didn't get to experience stringing popcorn or hanging homemade ornaments on my tree until I was 10 or 11 when my saint of a big sister bought our family one of those new-fangled artificial green trees. Even in my relative old age, I don't feel sentimental about the aluminum ones, and I can get sentimental about almost anything, but I'm happy for you! lol

George Ford said...

That part about your Aunt Pat almost got me lil' misty, Jim. I don't know if could have been that forgiving if it was me. I'm grateful to know that there are sweet people like your aunt out there who don't have to punish folks.

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

I had just posted a photo of a Christmas tree mistake when I decided to catch up on reading some others. How funny to know my poor tree would have been loved and cherished at your house too. I swear I did not notice how bad mine was until years later. Yours have character too.

I had one of those shiney silver trees in my college dorm room. We were the hit of the floor. I hope you can still get us a picture of the new one.

Poor Aunt Pat. I can't imagine.

i beati said...

Shortly I shall show you my trees if they would stop falling over

Sueann said...

You are sooo bad!! And such a terrible tease. No pic!!???? Dastardly I say...dastardly!!!
Loved seeing all the past trees...especially the three!! The more the better I say!!
Hugging you

Daryl said...

I think the reason not everyone can see your new shiny tree is the color wheel is set blue .. and you know how a blue screen can .. okay, there's no frickin' photo .. I feel cheated .. just for that I am not posting any pix of our menorah .. no amount of begging will change my mind .. go ahead and try ..

Carolina said...

And I thought you didn't care for Christmas trees!?!?! Huh!?!?!? ;-)

I happened to notice that the gorgeous cat was just playing the games there: sweeping stuff from the tree and feeling the branches.

Your house must be easy to find around Christmas. With that SHINY silver tree and the coloured light-thingummy.

Craig said...

Man, I remember those aluminum trees, with the cheesy rotating colored light. None of my actual family members owned one of those, so I feel free to mock them mercilessly. . .

The cat playing with the tree reminds me of the year 3M and on of his little buddies (they were probably around four years old at the time) undertook to climb our Christmas tree, which ended with two small boys on their backs, pinned under a pricklier-than-usual Christmas tree (I wish I'd gotten a photo, but I was somewhere between really pissed and concerned for their safety at the time).

Jen's-and-my first Christmas tree as a married couple was a spare little fake tree (green, not metallic), which I picked up on clearance. 'Cuz, see, I was such a cheapskate. When I was reunited with my birth-mother (who, btw, is Jewish), she sent us a 7-foot Scotch Pine in the mail!! We got this giant box from the mailman, and there was a TREE inside it! I never even knew you could send a Christmas tree in the mail. We've gotten real, pine-resin-smelling, needle-dropping trees ever since then. . .

And let's hear it for asymmetry! ('Course, you're from Boston, where you've got Fenway Park, so asymmetry is probably kinda ingrained in you. . .)

Thimbelle said...

My dear grandmother had one of those aluminum trees for most of my childhood.

I remember Grandma taking the long, brown paper tubes out of the box, and stacking them next to the shiny silver pole that was the "trunk" of the tree.

After the pole/trunk was secured in it's silver-painted stand, Grandpa took one of the brown paper tubes, tipped it over, and out popped a tree branch! He showed me how you slid the branches into the paper tubes in one direction to put them away after Christmas, and then slid them out the other direction the next year. I was fascinated! I "helped" as much as I could (for a 5 year-old person) and then, when all of the branches were on the tree, and the paper sleeves were put into the box, and put away, we hug shiny SILVER glass balls all over the tree. There was a shiny silver star at the top.

Then, Grandpa got out the color wheel light, and plugged it in. He moved it around a little bit, to get it just right, so that the colors were all over the tree.

It was all very space-age and modern, and to my tiny little self, the most AMAZING Christmas tree in the world!


I confess, I miss Pointy this year, but it's OK. I choose to think that my Mom (who had an amazing green thumb) is taking care of him for you, till you get there... in a hundred years or so! :)

Do give Simon Peter our best wishes! :)


Post that picture soon! I want to see the shiny SILVER tree!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that you have so many pics of your Christmas trees growing up.


And I, too, am disappointed that your camera decided to take a time out! Please post when he (not she *grin) decides to behave again. *smile*

Patricia said...

I love this post! I notice in one of the pictures of a stocking hanging on the mantle that looks identical to my stocking I had as a child, and my mother still has. Can you tell me if any of those stockings are old - say 40 yrs old?

Thanks, Patricia

Suldog said...

Patricia - The stocking you're talking about is probably my stocking. I've had it ever since I was a child, so it is at least 50 years old, probably 52 or 53 :-)

Tabor said...

I know that sick feeling when the camera refuses to play along. HOpe you did not lose any good photos along the way. Thanks for you last comment...I think you have hit the nail on the head, it is like jumping off a cliff.

Pearl said...

Sully, you are one funny man.

And THIS: "From the curtains, the wallpaper, and the date on the back of the photo, I'd say it was 1961" made me laugh out loud and caused my cube mate to ask what was so funny.

I've sent him your blog.

Regarding asymmetrical arbor in one's abode, my third boyfriend went up a tree in the middle of a friend's land and -- at their insistence! -- cut off the top six feet of a tree. That dang thing took up our ENTIRE living room! The cats lived in it for the month of December, and once it got good and brittle, we had to take it out in pieces...

Ah. To be young again...


Shrinky said...

Aw, what a big ol' soppy sentimental you are! I have to hand it to you Sully, I can't say I know anyone else at all who have kept a photographic record of their Christmas trees down the years - this is my first!

Good on your aunt Agnes/Pat for refusing to let the honest mistake of her doctor INCOMPETENTLY BLINDING her for LIFE no less, interfere with his cashflow. I truly believe you do come from a line of Saints, whether they enjoy a drink or no!

Can't wait to see this silver monstrosity (oiy, don't pout, it was meant as a JOKE..)!

lime said...

i like your wild asymmetrical trees. they have a lot of personality. we get real tress and though i try to find one that is reasonably balanced i really can't stand the ones that look overly pruned to perfection. they are some sort of mutant tree. i have no picture of it but we used to have an artificial one i picked up for about $10 when a local woolworth's sort of place went out of business. the last couple of years we used it i had to duct tape some of the limbs back on. how's that for a shiny silver tree???

Saz said...

lots of lovely trees to compensate for the missing new silver one...

saz x

Jackie said...

There's no silver tree, is there...
I came back to tell you that I always come back... ('course you probably knew that.) I love to read your commenter's comments.
You have the best followers!
Love 'em all.
I hope that you have a beautiful Christmas, Jim.
I want to send you a fruitcake.
It's on my 'to do' list. I do hope that I don't let you down.

Blackie Bond said...

Thank you for dropping by. You are right...your Blackie the grey tabby looks like my Blackie, also a grey tabby. We must be two rather unique people to call our grey tabbies 'Blackie' when they're not black. :)