Decorating the treeImage courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
It is almost time, I feel, to decorate the Christmas tree. We used to have a real tree every year. Then I bought a smallish one with the intention of putting it in the garden to grow after its indoor stint and bringing it into the house every year thereafter. It grew lopsided and didn’t look at all right, with some lovely green needles and some less than lovely brown ones.
I love the smell of real trees but find the needles quite sharp and irritating, making tree decoration more of a challenge than it should be. They drop all over the floor and secrete themselves in strange places to reappear months later. So, I abandoned real trees a few years ago and eventually found a very pleasing artificial one that looks quite like the real thing.
Tree decoration is like a Damocles’ sword – it’s a task that hangs over my head, creating anxiety. How silly! Actually, the anxiety is caused by my uncertainty about where the tree went after the previous Christmas. It always used to go in one of the lofts and if I had been particularly organised after Twelfth Night, the decorations would be nearby. For some reason, or none, that habit died and storage became a moveable feast.
Having located the tree, I turn my attention to the lights. Before putting them away I wind the lengths of little lamps round rolled-up paper, to avoid them tangling. It doesn’t always work. Inevitably, after untangling them and having the annual argument about why I didn’t store them more carefully, to which my reply should be, ‘Do it yourself then!’ we have the festive ‘Testing Of The Lights’. This is another trial of patience and language control. Naturally, some of the lights don’t work and the replacement bulbs we have don’t fit because they are remnants from long-lost sets.
At last, everything is in place and the careful placing of ornaments can begin. Unfortunately, some of the hangers have parted company with their partners and must be repaired or replaced.
I used to leave the dressing of the tree until just before Christmas Eve, but when Susannah and Frankie came to live with us when Frankie was 16 months old, I changed my routine. This was largely because Frankie’s birthday is December 1st (the same as my late brother) and I wanted to make it more special for him.
They lived with us for five and a half years and it felt very strange, but perfectly right, when they moved into their own home.
It will be interesting to see Gilbert’s reaction to the tree. I suspect he will take pleasure in removing ornaments and taking them to his bed(s). I used to hang chocolate decorations on the tree until one year I discovered the wrappers were empty. One of the dogs had carefully sucked all the chocolate out. That was the prerogative of the children until they grew too old to indulge in such pursuits. We don’t have any glass ornaments, either. Although they’re very pretty, they break easily and are dangerous for small children and pets.
It’s all a very long way from my childhood when the tree was festooned with glass baubles and real lighted candles in clip-on holders. Simpler times, simpler pleasures, but somehow the magic remains even in these less innocent times.