You wouldn’t know it to look at it but my Christmas tree is old and fake.
It was passed along to me years ago by my good friend Brenda, who was upgrading to a fancy shmancy pre-lit tree and was looking for a new home for her perfectly fine, impeccably maintained artificial tree.
For years, I had stuck by real trees, like pine sap on your best sweater. But I experienced a gradual awakening. Fake trees don’t shed much. No worries about recycling them after the holiday. And if you put lots and lots of blingy objects on the tree who will know the difference?
Thus began my new tradition: tarting up the Christmas tree.
I load my tannenbaum with decorations I have been collecting for years, through the stages of my life.
There’s Baby’s First Christmas ball–and Rebecca’s Christmas mouse, made by the baby herself six years later. Many are handmade, traded years ago at the annual neighborhood ornament exchange on Garfield Avenue in Palmyra, N.J., my home town. There are official White House ornaments, including one I brought back from my stint at USA Today. (I predict the official Trump ornament will be a 14k gold wall–and Mexico will pay for it.)
My current fave is a miniature replica of an old-fashioned typewriter, a gift from my friend Ellen, with whom I have shared many fond conversations on the merits of Chicago Style versus AP Style.
For the first time I can remember, my tree is illuminated by big, colorful bulbs harkening back to the days of my childhood. (You can buy them at BJs.) I’ve also added vintage garlands reminiscent of a feather boa from my glamorous grandmother’s tree, which I found when my sister Roni and I were cleaning out closets after our mother died.
Mom was fond of tinsel, arranging it strand by strand on our tree. I take my own approach, tossing sparkling clusters of silvery icicles with great expectations. When the tinsel gets to the state of the cobwebs on Miss Havisham’s wedding cake, I know I’ve got it right.
After the holiday, as I dismantle the tree, I follow Mom’s example, removing the tinsel to use next year. But each season yields less glitter as time and kittens take their toll.
This year, I did not have enough tinsel to tart up the tree! I also was out of ornament hooks!
I squandered precious time scouring Walgreen’s before heading to Fairfax Hardware, my go-to destination for whatever ails my house. As always, the people who work there were courteous, helpful and gosh-darn nice.
Do you have tinsel? And ornament hooks?
Of course, here you are. Happy holidays!
At Christmas, and always, a great hardware store is truly a gift.