Putting up the Sanders Family Christmas Tree is always a complex operation, and this year’s production is no different.
First, there is the search for the tree. Then, there is bringing the tree home. After that, there is the storing of the tree until the proper date, after which comes placing the tree in the stand. Finally, there is the decorating of the tree. None of these are simple tasks where the Sanders Family Christmas Tree is concerned.
|The tree comes into the house.|
That's 'The Lemon Drop Kid'
playing in the background.
Double-click on any of these
photos for a slideshow.
I should interject a little background for the unwary reader. Mine is a mixed marriage. Betty is a born-and-bred New Yorker from the Finger Lakes, where horse-drawn sleighs drag magnificent, fresh-cut firs through crisp, fresh-fallen snow to homes on Christmas Eve. I am a native Floridian and my circa-1957 vision of the pathetic, parched, brown-needled Scotch pines that slumped listlessly against fences in Kiwanis-Club-operated lots in my hometown is permanently seared in memory.
|This is a drawing on an|
egg of our first house,
a brownstone in Brooklyn
Betty has always been a true believer. She only had to give me a taste of the Real Thing to bring me around. I cut my first Christmas tree in 1974 on a tree farm north of Albany with Betty as my guide to distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ trees. It was a revelation. I was hooked. I saw the light, and there no greater zealot in the Christmas Tree Universe than a convert.
|A decided mix of cultures: at|
lower left, a Ukranian egg from
our days in Chicago; at center,
an Indian on an elephant; one
of Betty's parent's ornaments
from the 1940s.
|There's something for|
everyone on the tree
|The density of ornaments|
reflects travel and eclectic tastes.
On Monday, though, there was a warning for a fresh three-to-six inches of the white stuff the following day and we thought it unwise to carry a snow-encrusted tree into the house. So, we cleared a space in the garage and devoted two hours to anchoring the tree to the railing of one of our garage doors while tying the base of the tree to the other railing so the tree could not kick out and hit a car. Elapsed time: ninety minutes.
Then, late Tuesday afternoon, after the tree had shed its accumulation of snow (and while heavy snow fell outside), we carried it into the house. We must be getting better at placing trees in stands (it requires an extremely heavy-duty stand to accommodate a tree of our size and girth) because we got it standing perfectly straight on the first try. We tightened the tree in its stand. We also deploy a pair of guy wires to augment the stand because, in years past, cats had gotten inspired to scale the tree in search of whatever it is cats climb trees to find.
|A koala from Australia, an angel,|
an ornate ceramic egg and my
drawing of our Stamford home.
Tuesday evening, we added nine hundred lights. Wednesday, we started decorating.
It is decorating a tree that is the true joy of having one. Opening each box of ornaments is a voyage of discovery through time and space. There are the tiny vases we acquired in Greece and the prayer balls from Japan. There are matched glass lamps from Harrod’s in London and terra cotta jugs from Sorrento. There is a tiny Champagne bottle from old friends in Virginia and one of my baby shoes.
Box after box is opened and memories are unleashed: tiny koalas from Australia and a carved tiger in a Santa cap from the San Diego Zoo; crystal icicles we bought on sale after Christmas at B. Altman in the late 1970s and delicate ornaments from the 1940s that graced Betty’s tree when she was a girl. Hand-painted Ukrainian eggs from our days in Chicago and a Russian one featuring a red fox framed against a snowy night from a street fair in Augusta, Georgia.
|The finished tree.|
This is our ritual. Christmas means many things to different people. For me, the tree is a symbol of both timeless and evolution; of change and of constancy. I look at the decorated tree and I see a diorama of my life preserved in precious bundles each weighing a few ounces.
Christmas trees come but once a year, but the enchantment is eternal.