Old Christmas Tree, How Plastic Art Thou Branches

Plastic and Steel Can Still Mean Love

I set up our Christmas Tree on Wednesday!

Now this isn’t just any old tree I’m talking about. This thing is on the way to becoming an antique; it’s over 30 years old this year and of course it’s artificial. All of you live (dead) tree junkies just shut up and keep reading, this thing is really keen….

There are two green wooden poles that slip together to form the tree trunk, which is then inserted into a metal base. That trunk has a bunch of holes drilled into it, holes which are designed to receive the tip ends of the fake branches. The branches are made of metal, wire and plastic needles. The longest portion of each branch is a hollow metal tube silk-screened with a cartoon-ish looking bark pattern. It’s SO cool compared to any of the fake trees for sale today.

I’ve put this old tree together so many times now that I could do it in less than 10 minutes if I was in a hurry, but who wants to rush Christmas decorations? That defeats the tradition.

And speaking of traditions, I started one of my own six or seven years ago, a tradition that snuck up on me this week when I went to open the box the tree is kept in.

The tradition is simple, you should try it. When you go to store a seasonal item in your attic or closet, something you’ll see again in five months or so, grab a piece of paper and sit down and write down what’s happening in your life at the time. I started doing this every Fall when I would put the house fans away for the Winter. Over time we slowly expanded the tradition to include other things, for instance: the Christmas Tree.

Now, five months might not seem like a long time, but you’d be amazed at how quickly you can forget things written on a piece of paper (actually you probably wouldn’t be all that amazed). When you eventually DO retrieve the note, there might be a few things on there that don’t make a lot of sense, there are certainly a few things on there that may make you smile with remembrance and there are occasionally some things that may hit you in the stomach like the cross-town bus.

That’s kind of what happened this year.

I was busy doing a movie last December so we decided to leave the tree in storage. When I opened the tree box on Wednesday I was opening a time-capsule from 2001. My (forgotten) note to the future was sitting right
on top of the tree fixins and I snatched it up like a toy surprise from a box of Fred Flintstone’s Fruity Pebbles cereal. The notes wer scribbled on a piece of white printer paper, six of them in total.

The first entry made me chuckle, it was a dire threat from ME to MYSELF to be sure to shop for Christmas gifts for people BEFORE Christmas, not afterward. I could benefit from that warning every year, in fact, I could really stand to have someone follow me around yelling that warning at me every five minutes with a bullhorn, starting in September.

The second entry said “Bob Mixon in the hospital”. Bob Mixon is one of the members of my tiny church who was there ever since I can remember (I started going there when I was 6). When I was a kid he was a teacher. When I was older he was a counselor and a friend. I played in a baseball league with one of his sons, made a haunted house with another of his sons and was a youth councilor for his daughter’s class. I completely forgot writing this note about Bob being in the hospital, but I remember standing in the pouring rain at the cemetery a few weeks later as he was laid to rest. Bob never left the hospital.

The third note said “Andrew goes back to finish ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ in a week”. That note made me smile because Sweet Home remains one of my favorite movies I’ve ever done, by the end of the movie our 1st AD Louis D’Esposito walked around with a grin on his face saying “If I hear ONE more person say that this is the best movie they’ve ever worked on…”.

The fourth note mentioned a little black cat that had shown up in the neighborhood.

The fifth note said “Dopey hasn’t yet seen that the tree has been taken down”.

Dopey Under the Tree

Dopey is a cat that showed up on our doorstep in 1987. She loved the Christmas tree and would spend most of December nestled on the red apron under the tree. Occasionally, as your own cats might do, she would stand up and leisurely pull down a Santa ornament and ever so delicately bite its head off. Putting up the Christmas tree reminded me of that cat; she passed away in 2002. This note was from her last Christmas.

There’s coffee brewing in the kitchen and Christmas music playing on the stereo. The tree is up, the lights are on it and the ornaments are coming out of their boxes; memories invested in each. The black cat from note #4 is running in and out of empty bags on the floor, just learning the magic of the Christmas tree and the taste of santa ornaments.

I’m counting the hours before she takes a poop under there, but it’s okay – that old Christmas tree has seen a lot…

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