A little remembrance in these days of Taking Down The Tree:
For several years in my childhood, silver-foil Christmas trees with their skeletal limbs encased in sparkly tinsel like Reynolds Aluminum’s dream of Heaven spent their nights in picture windows.
The trees came in a long narrow box, like maybe a big umbrella would come in, and you had to put it together. It was like poking immense scratchy, frilly cocktail picks into holes in a broom handle, and about as attractive---I thought those spindly sparse things were ugly as sin, and not even the lights would save them. It felt to me like dressing up an old scraggly twig doll in a crinoline dress---I’m sure it was SOMEBODY’S magic; it just wasn’t mine.
Sitting on the floor beside each tree would be a motorized color-wheel flooding the room with green, red, blue, gold in a never-ending carousel of color.
It was like living inside a perpetual traffic-light, with the addition of a blue section adding a bit of underwater whimsy to one turn of the projector.
Folks watched their Motorolas and Zeniths, absorbed in black and white Kraft Theater and Hallmark Hall of Fame, whilst their faces, bodies and living-room furniture were hued in that succession of four shades of light.
I suppose we all had one of those trees at one time or another, and we just sat right down with the curtains open, eyes fixed on the comedy of Milton Berle whilst we were turned into clowns ourselves in that revolving rainbow. People rode around to look at the lights, meeting and greeting out rolled-down windows, as we looped the blocks of our town or one of the nearby ones for that seasonal display. As cliché as the trees are, we’d ride several miles, turning corners and following the glow, with the only variables being the size of the windows, the family visible through them, and what show was on TV.
After the heyday of those silver trees (possibly coming along and leisurely running into a trend-blend like cream clouding into coffee) came the quickly-spreading fad (at least as fast as the thorny limbs would grow) of Christmas pyracantha.
Espaliered Pyracantha, to be exact, and for everybody who had one, there were two who couldn’t pronounce it. Thoughts ranged around the Espa-leered range, with a few ventures into variants, and some of the most posh assayed the French---Es-Spale-Yerd or Es-pelli-aid.
Pyracanthas were exotic, beautiful things, claiming a place not given to the boxwoods and Burfordii, with their lush red clusters and branches staple-sculpted against walls and trellises. They were lovely plants---bright with berries and rife with thorns that would do you mischief if you handled them wrong.
Displays ranged from big bushy berry-covered beauties, to little short scrawls like a child's first cursive.
Husbands were pressed into service to brave the thorns and train the limbs into two-dimensional shapes with staples driven into the wall. Half the houses in town had a Rorschach-in-red on one wall or another---chiefly the one with the 300-watt bulb pointed at it from its little stob stuck into the ground, and wearing a kite-tail of heavy extension cord. These beauties had the lagniappe of serving all year round, for when the berries were not in season, just that silhouette against the bricks was like the shadowy trees on Asian screens, or the profiles of evergreens inside-painted on glass lampshades---ethereal, ghostly shadows.
Having a nicely-shaped, good-sized Pyracantha crawling up your wall gave you bragging rights, of a sort, with as many hair-dryer and bridge club discussions of fertilizer and pruning as were devoted to yellow cake mix. Often the plants were embellished with other art, ranging from suns to moons to the ever-popular lavabos.
And familiarity did NOT always breed correct, for the pronouncing still wavered into odd and lofty and downright uppity territory, mostly amongst the ladies, causing snickers and re-tellings of the grandest and silliest, and on more than one occasion, causing one thorn-scarred and fed-up husband to ask, “Dang, Woman---coutten you just say ’STAPLED’?”
I cannot seem to close up the above big space---every time I try to delete or move it, it jumps farther apart. Feel Free to fill in with anything you'd like. A plant of your own, some musings on Christmas, pictures of your pets. Label your ornament boxes, like you've been meaning to.
Talk amongst yourselves.