I’m doing without this year. Before I went into the hospital, I bought one of those little rosemary trees that every gardener worth their salt tells you never to buy. Never mind, I think to myself, in an overloading of pre-Hanukkah chutzpah – I can care for it properly. So I bring it home, stroke its already dead branches (still green) and toddle off to the hospital knowing that it was supposed to live dry and would be fine in my absence.
Came back a week later and it was solid black. Very uncheering. Dead as Marley.
All other plants were thriving. Obviously the rosemary tree was terminal upon purchase. It looked too dead to even harvest the rosemary. So I tossed it and remain treeless, secreted as I am with two broke knees and inability to drive.
It’s okay. I’m okay without the mess. I can be festive without a tree. I can be festive without baubles. I have the warmth of my friends to brighten my place. I am content.
But it makes me remember Christmas trees of my youth.
My dad was an engineer. Always looking for a better way to do something or make the world easier, shorten the work, etc. Not always successful, but we all survived his efforts, which says something. Sometimes it was a near thing for him, though.
That Christmas my dad found a “fantastically easy” way to decorate the tree. He came home with a kit that had a ring on the top and long wires hanging from holes in the ring. The idea was that you would attach your ornaments to the wires at various lengths, drape the whole bundle of wires over the tree and let the ornaments dangle where they would, and then when the holiday was over, you could “simply” pull the ring off the top of the tree and all the ornaments would come with it. (There were helpful and encouraging photos on the package). The whole mess, erm, collection, could be carefully placed into a box and then re-draped on next year’s tree, “saving hours of effort.”.
There was some grumbling about attaching the ornaments. Hanging things on the tree is a lot more fun than wrapping them in wire. The wires got tangled; arguments started; people stepped on everything; my mother fled. My father vanished, leaving us to wrestle the mess into something approximating a festive decoration.
We hung it over the tree. All of the wires immediately got entangled with the branches and there was much pulling and under-15-level swearing to try and detangle them. Some of us gave up and left lumps of ornaments in wiry birds’ nests. My older brother, Chris, the most patient of all of us, struggled manfully on. I rather suspect my dad was off adding alcohol to the Cherries Jubilee. Or tasting the alcohol for the Cherries Jubilee.
He returned, a bit flushed and cheering us on with songs played on the piano and such. Eventually we were able to drag the ornaments down to cover the whole tree. Mostly.
Great gaps in ornaments were side by side with crowded together gangs. The wooden Santas and Elves looked furious. Glass balls banged together whenever we walked across the floor. We all avoided looking at the tree except when it was illuminated only by lights…
Several days after Christmas, we had to disentangle. Wires, lighting strings, ornaments and all tied themselves in gordian knots. As always, my mum was left with the putting away…we helped, but she was stuck with the lion’s share one day after we went back to school.
Strangely, the next year, we found all the ornaments (quite a lot fewer of them) untangled, and no wires left to be seen.
Not the same thing, but probably equally annoying: