As this newspaper arrives for your perusal on Christmas Eve, my historic home looks like a Victorian Christmas card with a tree elaborately decorated with hand-made ornaments, garlands and lights, but not without some difficulty. Once again, the lights of the self-lighting artificial tree did not work, at least not all of them, and I don’t deal well with manufacturers’ broken promises.
I always love helping my wife decorate our home around any holiday season but I turn from the happy Elf into the Grinch when things don’t work the way I want them to, whether the crowning star won’t sit straight atop the tree or we happen to choose a real tree one year and the whole thing won’t stand up straight.
Sometimes when I get frustrated over both the big and the small stuff as I work to transpose my home’s interior into a festive holiday mood, I think that maybe I’ve reached a stage of life when it’s time to celebrate holidays in a more moderated way and decorate the house accordingly. My wife hasn’t reached that stage yet, but maybe I have.
Things were different when we first married. It was at the end of September and by Thanksgiving we had launched into our first joint home crafts project, making our own ornaments for a tree of the artificial, but rather convincing, variety. Did you know that the first artificial Christmas trees were made by a toilet brush company and actually looked like big, green toilet brushes?
As hopelessly romantic newlyweds, we dedicated ourselves to creating highly sophisticated, decorative ornaments made from Styrofoam balls. Using straight pins, we attached to the balls fine ribbons, metallic threads, beads, semi-precious stones, feathers, pearls and crystals that we purchased from the “hat district” on West 28th Street in Manhattan. The project became an addiction that gave us callouses and had us losing sleep, night after night.
A week before Christmas, all the ornaments were completed and the tree was easily assembled in three pieces in the days before we had to worry about its lighting up on its own. We strung it with multi-colored lights and golden tinseled garlands (which we haven’t seen sold in the past 25 years, so I suspect they are highly toxic or flammable, but quite beautiful), and there it remained in the corner until after Valentine’s Day. Or was it Easter? Seriously!
We liked it so much that we excused its extended stay to visitors as camp art. We just didn’t want to let go of that demonstration of our first and maybe our only major artistic project created together.
The ridiculousness of the situation paid off, however, when a national magazine was tipped off (by me) about our beautiful tree and published a photo feature about it that appeared in mid-summer!
As I was driving around town last week, I spied young families picking out trees and wreaths, excited to get them home for holiday decoration. A smile crossed my mind as I realized that I seem to have passed into a different phase as a homeowner who decorates for the holidays, a new stage of life where it’s time to let our kids pull out all the punches for their kids and to have one heck of a time watching them do it, from mounting Santa and his reindeer on the roof to putting out cookies and milk. Good for them, but not necessarily for me anymore.
In my own family, there were a few years when we enjoyed four generations of our family gathering at our highly decorated home to celebrate the holidays, and I’m looking forward to the day when we can expand generationally to that number once again.
By the way, just in case you’re wondering, this year there will be 30 million real trees sold, compared with 12 million artificial trees.
If you buy an artificial tree that is self lighting, you may find that the lights don’t work. You might deal with this issue as I did this year, by just letting it go…and having a stiff drink.
Bill Primavera is a Residential and Commercial Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker, as well as a publicist and journalist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For questions about home maintenance or to engage him to help you buy or sell a home, he can be emailed at Bill@TheHomeGuru.com or called directly at 914-522-2076.