[Note: This is a minor re-write of a column first published in January, 2002. The events described haven't changed much.]
The holiday season is now officially complete at Mullings Central. I consider it another triumph over elementary physics and psychology that, once again, our house did not burn down, and divorce proceedings were not begun.
I spent the past month looking warily at cheap, electrical rigging (which had been stored in a damp, garage for the previous 11 months) wrapped around a dead, tinder-dry pine tree.
There is an even greater menace outside, where live electrical devices have been wrapped around dead, tinder-dry greenery, draping the front door against which rain occasionally beats. With the ferocity of Tropical Storm Zeta.
The Christmas tree is brought INTO the house each year by two fat guys, wheezing and puffing their way up the stairs. The tree is delivered in a condition which is known as "fresh," which is like saying the Enron and WorldCom annual financial statements were "complete."
In usage, a "fresh tree" is one on which the needles more-or-less stay attached to the branches unless something actually brushes up against them. This condition lasts for about 20 minutes after the tree comes to your house.
My first job of the holiday season is to put hot water into the container under the tree to "improve the uptake," as the two graduate agronomists with the sagging jeans who delivered the tree put it.
This requires me to:
- Fill a pot ("Why don't you use a pitcher?") with the hot water;
All while happily humming Christmas carols.
In our house this procedure is affectionately known as the "Renewal of our Marriage Vows" sacrament.
Now comes the "Taking Down the Tree" ceremony. Removing the angels, the candles, and the other tchachkas is simple. But the tree itself is a potential deal breaker. And the lights.
- Carry it from the kitchen to the living room under the watchful, if not worshipful, eye of the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices;
- Spill, maybe, molecular amounts (a mist; wisps, really), not, as SOME people have claimed, enough to cause the hardwood floors to warp;
- Crawl under the tree getting stabbed in the arms, the neck, and the forehead by the barely-attached (and aptly-named) needles, and;
- Fill the container.