This is one Mean Old Lady!

This is one Mean Old Lady!
Self-portrait: 'Quilter on Fire'

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

O Tannenbaum!

Ah, the family Christmas tree! 

In our case, the DHubby's mother being a first-generation German-American,  the tradition of this holiday symbol is obviously more legitimate, right?  Oh, never mind.  It's the holiday thing--lots of fun and fragrant to boot!

Our little nuclear family has a lot of Christmas tree history, too.  Our first Christmas with a child in the house was in 1980.  After the somewhat traumatic sequence of pre-eclampsia/C-section/crash/NICU/cardiac surgery, we were a little woozy...and by the time we thought of putting up a tree, we were reduced to the moth-eaten remnants spurned by more planful holiday-lovers.  We put up our Charlie-Brown-reject tree and decorated it as best we could.  Thereafter, each evening we were treated to the clink-shatter-smash of ornaments falling to the floor from withering branches, followed by the swish-patter of dropping needles.  By Christmas Day, the thing was a bald, skeletal nightmare.  (Moral:  some years, it's better to give up.)

Fast forward!  We were in Real Christmas-tree Country!  Northeast Ohio!  We bundled up our two darlings and hiked out to cut our own tree at a Christmas Tree Farm.  How jolly!  We took it home and put its foot into a big bucket of water in the garage until time to Put Up The Tree.  Of course, at that point we discovered that in fact, we had a tree with a large, five-gallon-bucket-sized lump of solid ice on its lower trunk.  (I lower the curtain over a grisly scene in which Daddy is chopping ice away from the tree--ice chunks are flying all over the hallway and melting into slippery pools everywhere.)  

The next year, we knew better!  We waited to cut our tree until we were actually ready to set it up in the den.  Of course, it snowed; we bundled into snow suits, boots, hats, mufflers, gloves, and set out.  The Tree Farm was a Winter Wonderland of snowflakes, drifts, and fragrant greenery....we found the perfect tree and sawed it down.  Trekking back to the hut, we paused to let the children frolic in the snow and throw themselves down to make angels over and over.  Then we discovered that we'd locked the keys in the car.  (I'm not even mentioning that it was Daddy who was responsible for this little goof-up.)  The kids were wet and beginning to feel chilled; we were in the middle of nowhere; and the Christmas Tree Farm people wanted their money....but it all got sorted out once the Chesterland Police arrived to break into the station wagon.  Ah, memories!  I'm not even mentioning the obscenity-laced scenes while we endeavored to set the tree up straight in its tree-stand--one parent prone under the scratchy boughs while the other barked instructions:  "Tighten on the left!  Your OTHER left!"  Decorating followed a certain sequence:  lights first; garlands next (often newly-restrung and augmented with popcorn-and-cranberry strands); then the other ornaments.  On the hearth or beneath the tree, little villages of blocks or Legos were built anew each year. 

The next year, we gave up hiking and bought our tree from the front of the lot--pre-cut.  When we got it home, though, we realized it was a second-growth tree, with a kinked, knobby lower trunk, difficult to maneuver into a tree stand.  The tree fell over...once, twice, three times....until we set up cross-braces nailed to the walls.  The year after *that* we had a Very Bad Cat...followed by the Year of the Leaking Tree Stand, the Year without Electricity or Water, and the Year of TWO Bad Kitties.  

Yet I held the line:  only a real tree would do!  I hewed to this principle until I realized that we were going out and acquiring and setting up the tree alone; the children would arrive from their widely-distant colleges and assist with some decorating, but then depart again before the onerous task of UNdecorating commenced.  And we were still vacuuming up newly-discovered hoards of needles as the following Christmas approached.  

So....after more than 25 years, I fell from grace.  I went to Hobby Lobby's 70%-off sale and purchased a Fake Tree--one with pine cones and lights already in place!  It lived in the garage almost a full year before it was called into service, but's our tree.   

 Most of the ornaments have particular significance, history, and associations.  The set of Chinese straw fish commemorate Laura's years with an aquarium and her devotion to her fishies.

Birds were an ever-present part of our lives on our eight acres on Chagrin River Road.  When the fields browned in the Fall, we almost always found at least one small tidy gold-finch nest hidden among the tall grass stems.  These make cunning decorations.  

The gold orb is the lone survivor of a set of six that I purchased at Nurnberg's Christkindl's Markt.  I also have a large number of wood ornaments--angels, mushrooms, apples, tiny replicas of toys--that I love seeing each year; they remind me of the ornaments from my own childhood years in Germany.  

This year's tree has a decided 'critter' theme.

Goosey is newer--but irresistible.  Her legs dangle and swing.  

Next to Goosey is an 'inchie,' a quilted ornament (a warm-up piece cut into inch-square bits, then bound with zig-zag stitching in variegated thread and hung with a ribbon.) 

 There are also English paper-pieced ornaments and tatted hearts and wreaths, reflecting various projects and techniques I've learned. 

The nut-hatch is 'an upside-down clown.'
My favorite ornament--which we call 'the soap bubble.'
Mudbug from Cajun Country
From a Kentucky handicraft shop
..but made in China.  Sigh.


  1. Thanks for sharing your Christmas tree, Elaine. We haven't put one up since 2001. But when we did put them up, we liked to keep them around for a while. we would put them in our coolest room (temperature wise) and it would last until almost Easter. I had heart ornaments for Valentine's Day and Shamrock ornaments for St. Pat's.

  2. That's wonderful!
    I have to tell this one on myself: one year I decorated the outside of our house, but it snowed, and snowed, and snowed...and I just never got out there to remove the twining fake-pine garlands. The neighbors sneaked down and decked it all out with plastic Easter eggs, laughing so hard they could barely manage to walk.

  3. Love it! Love the whole post. But I especially love the tree history, year by year. Too funny! (We're fake tree people, ourselves. You have to be, overseas, because many places don't have trees.)


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