09 January 2009

O Christmas Tree

Or, "Undecking the Halls, Part 3."

I really wasn't in the mood for undecorating anything. I woke up with stomach cramps at 3 a.m. and was "unavoidably delayed" for about an hour. It must have been the popcorn. Sigh. But after breakfast at nine, I placed all the Christmas village pieces back into their box, with the cords in the empty places and the trees and the figures on top of the cord or around the houses. I have bubble wrap between the houses but will be a nervous wreck until James gets the container back downstairs into the closet.

Next I tackled the tree. Oh, I remember the days when I could re-use the tinsel! I haven't seen lead-foil tinsel since I was very small; I pretty much grew up on the newer mylar stuff they replaced the lead-foil with when the dangers of lead were exposed, but the old mylar icicles used to be twice as wide and you could place them neatly back on their little holder without much loss. These newest icicles are so thin they almost crackle with electricity; you can barely take them off the holder in small groups to drape the branches. So in the last few years since I have had to buy it, I just rip it off and toss it in the wastebasket. Seems so wasteful.

I just worked at my own pace and got on tolerably well. At first I put on some music: Lou Monte's Christmas album, and then David Lanz's "Christmas Eve." Then I watched a couple of DVDs, Christmas Is and The City That Forgot About Christmas, and I was done about ten or fifteen minutes after the last one ended.

I decided I was getting tired of all the small boxes in the ornament container. I'm not anal about keeping the Hallmark ornaments in their original boxes, but I've been keeping multiple ones in the boxes I've kept. This year I decided to put only the glass ornaments in boxes, and put the rest (mostly plastic, some cloth, a couple of metal ones) in gallon Ziploc bags laid flat. It worked out quite well.

When I finished stripping the tree, I dealt with the dead string of lights. We don't have any replacement bulbs for these two strings of lights and Seasonal Concepts, where we got the strings, is out of business. I don't think it's just a burnt-out bulb, seeing what happened: the lights flickered, got very bright, then went out. I think the string is fried. So I took the string off and put on one of the new GE strings I purchased after Christmas.

Now, putting lights on a Christmas tree is, on my tiny list of Christmas things I hate, is just about one of the worst (even worse than "The Christmas Shoes" and "Pretty Paper" <g>). But I managed it. Doesn't look too bad.

I also wrapped up the nativity set, but instead of putting it back into the old cardboard box it's been in since it came home from my mother's house, I now have it in one of those larger plastic shoeboxes.

By the time I was finished, I was starving, so I had lunch and put The House Without a Christmas Tree on. I had the incidental music going through my head last night.

I know everyone can't like everything, but it upsets me when people abuse this story. I don't even mind—well, not much!—people saying "it's boring," but making fun of it drives me crazy. It's a slice-of-life tale and I know everyone doesn't like those. But I feel a deep kinship to this story. I don't have Addie's chutzpah and was a lot shyer, but otherwise she reminds me a lot of myself at age ten, bespectacled, relishing in vocabulary words and reading, drawing things all the time. Her home is so familiar to me...most of my relatives lived in older homes or triple-deckers with the same homely old wallpaper, the beadboard cupboards, the vintage fridge, the kitchen stove with the warming shelf overhead and the stovepipe going out the wall (my grandfather and my godmother both had similar kitchen ranges into the 1960s), the wooden floors and the old linoleum, attic space under the eaves, the big floor-model radio, even the old wooden high-chair in the kitchen, being saved and used as a table because nothing still sturdy and useful was ever wasted. My godmother's mother was like Grandma; she even wore the same type of housedress and apron. (Most of my aunts did, too, like my Auntie Petrina.) I remember all those little things in the background being in use, like the "flit" gun on the windowsill.

Addie's father even shouted like mine did. One of the reviews of the DVD I read talked about James' "emotional outburst" possibly scaring younger viewers. Gosh, everybody's dad shouted like that when I was a kid. We were Italian; we did everything at the top of our voices. Dad got angry and yelled, and then it was over with. I preferred my dad being mad with me than my mom. He shouted and then it was over. Mom didn't speak with you for hours—that was scary!

I did read a review that said this was "a 1970s view of the 1940s." I'm not sure I agree. Certain 1970s sensibilities did creep in. I really can't see a 1940s teacher sitting on her desk, for example, and Addie and the boy who made fun of Grandma probably would have ended up in the principal's office for fighting, not being reasoned with! (Heck, back in those days some schools still struck kids on the hands with a ruler, or paddled them.) Also, if all the 1940s books I read are any indication, kids still had to stand up to talk when the teacher called on them, unless Miss Thompson, with her desk-perching and explanations, was one of those newfangled progressive teachers. :-) The only real anachronism I noticed was the artificial tree in the drugstore where the girls go to buy Miss Thompson's gift. Artificial trees are nothing new; they've existed since the feather trees of the 1800s. But the string of blinking lights on the tree are miniatures, like we have today. Not sure if blinking lights existed in 1946, but miniature lights were invented in Europe and weren't sold here until the 1960s. (I think my research said they were first sold here in 1960.) The tree should have had the old-style C7 nightlight bulbs.

Otherwise, the home, the old-fashioned classroom with its wooden trim and painting of George Washington, the snow-rutted streets and the neighborhood pharmacy, always looked and felt perfect to me, and my parents, who were adults in the 1940s, noted the authentic look.

Anyway, I've surveyed the house for "leftovers"—I always seem to leave something behind that doesn't get put away and I want to avoid that this year; the closet where everything is stored is getting much too crowded to have loose things hanging about. So all the boxes appear to be packed up, and labeled properly, waiting for James to lug them downstairs and put them in their proper places on the shelf, and all I have to put away are the Christmas things in the bathroom, which are still waiting on the snowman soap dispenser to drain before they can be tucked away in the rear of the cupboard under the sink.

The house was so nice and tidy for the party last week and now it's a wreck again...it will be nice to have everything placed in the closet and stored for another year, just waiting for the magic to return.

In the meantime, I'm going to sign off, since I've just put The Small One on and I know I'm going to be reduced to a sniffling mess by the time it finishes. :-)

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