I've managed to take the other decorations down in the past week, during lunch or after work—it's really surprising what you can get done in fifteen minutes at the time, as it's so much easier taking down than putting up! I packed up the manger last night and there was nothing left but to tackle the Christmas tree this afternoon. James was at work, and would have been at his club meeting had he not been at work, so I put on some Christmas things, All Creatures Great and Small's "Merry Gentlemen" and The Good Life's "Silly, But It's Fun," and then the Christmas episode of To The Manor Born, starting up "Silly" again to finish up.
I start off by pulling the icicles off the tree and stuffing them into a disposable bag. I used to save the tinsel, using 80 percent of it again the following year, when it was the thicker mylar, but this is utterly impossible to get off the tree and re-hang on the cardboard insert that comes in the tinsel box. It's so prone to static electricity that before I had pulled it off a dozen branches I had strands clinging to my pants.
Once I "de-tinsel" the front, I start taking off all the ornaments in the front and as far on each side as I can reach. The sets of glass "baubles," as the British call them, go in their individual boxes, the individual ones are carefully packed in small boxes, and the plastic ones (all the Hallmarks and Carletons), get laid flat in gallon ziplock bags. (People who put their Hallmark ornaments back in the original box, or wrap their ornaments in newspaper or tissue would be horrified; we simply don't have the room.) Once I get the front finished I can take the tree by its "trunk" and duckwalk it forward out of the corner so I can repeat the procedure on the back. Then "Little Blaze" (the Woolworths star) comes off and goes back in its box, and the boxes and bags get laid or placed in the storage box like pieces in a puzzle. Every year it's like magic how it all fits back in there.
And the tree is ready for James to take downstairs. I can then clean the corner, put the winter decorations up on the divider, and then return the glider rocker to its proper place.
(This year I actually pulled certain ornaments from the tree and put them aside. On the way home last week, James had a "scathingly brilliant idea." Later in the year we'll keep you posted if the idea comes to fruition...)
So I sat down with Schuyler to watch the rest of "Silly, But It's Fun," and then "Merry Gentlemen" again. I love this episode, not just the lovely old-fashioned Christmas prep: James and Helen writing Christmas cards at the table near the fire with carolers singing outside, the men gathering holly in the woods and cutting their own tree, the C7 and C6 bulbs on the not-shaved Christmas tree, the little mince pies sitting in the kitchen (one of these little tarts should be eaten each day of the twelve days of Christmas for good luck). Or not just the funny bits with Siegfried frightening a snooping Tristan and Siegfried using the big trunk to subtly hint that a Christmas hamper is wanted, and the cake-tasting scene, although all those add to the charm.
It's the set I love, too, the beautiful Skeldale house set, with the dark woodwork, the dark panel doors, the vintage wallpaper, the electric lights in candolier wall sconces, and the solid, dark, carved furniture...it reminds me of my grandfather's house, especially at Christmas, when I would creep upstairs from the celebration in the basement to pad into the darkened dining room with its Edwardian furniture, faded wallpaper, wood floor, and glowing Christmas tree sitting before the front window, sparkling with old-fashioned lead tinsel over clear WWII vintage ornaments, plastic items from the 1950s, and Woolworths balls of more recent vintage, and the fat multicolor of the "big bulbs." It was always so magical. When I am at my lowest, I relive that image and wish I could step through some type of temporal door and be there again.
I'd even put up with algebra and eighth-grade bullying for the chance...