When I moved away from home and began my new life as an apartment-dweller, I switched from having real Christmas trees to artificial ones. By this time, the miniature lights had become the popular fashion and so the larger, hotter and more dangerous 7 watt bulbs were out. Made of spage-age polymers first developed for use in space by NASA, the tree is more likely to melt into a great, green puddle than to go up in flames. That, together with the cooler lights, seemed to make the whole business slightly less worthy of emergency fire department visits when the tree stayed up too long following the big day. In fact, if I leave the tree up until March, what's the harm?
The delicate nature of a real tree demands that you do not purchase and set it up too many days before Christmas, or you risk a brown tree with razor-sharp needles that might poke Santa (express ticket to the naughty list) or give you a nasty tree-rash when you take it down. An artificial tree can be put up at anytime, but traditonally (my tradition) I think the weekend following Thanksgiving is soon enough. It seems appropriate as the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, is the start of the holiday shopping season and also when Santa arrives in town at then end of our little holiday parade.
But this year, The Boy wanted the tree up even earlier. Judging his sense of restlessness and how unlikely it was that I would get any peace until it was up, I agreed to allow them to put up the tree on the weekend before Thanksgiving. This is the third year in a row that I have had little or nothing to do with putting up the tree. The Boy and The Girl do it all themselves. As The Boy gets older, it goes more smoothly. This year he didn't have to ask at all about the letters on the branches or which order they go in. He's even tall enough to help The Girl put up the lights. I am not even needed for my height anymore.
Of course, the tree doesn't have that elegant, coordinated, Tiffany look. There are no less than three different colors of tinsel garland and they are wrapped around the tree at various levels, so that it is red at the top third, then white, then gold, like a striped tree. They also insisted on having as many strings of lights flashing as they could find flasher bulbs for. My tree should come with a seizure warning, like the ones they put on video games. The ornaments are placed haphazardly and those favored by The Girl usually have a photo of her on them and are grouped at eye level on the front of the tree for maximum exposure.
But you know what? It's beautiful.
It's beautiful because they are so proud of it. It's beautiful because it has special meaning to them. It's beautiful because it's a product of their own creativity. It's beautiful because it represents sibling cooperation.
But mostly, it's beautiful because I didn't have to do it myself. It will become a lot less beautiful after Christmas. It's much harder to find good help to take it all down again.