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Monday, January 20, 2003

Only 339 Days Left!

Greetings from Firetrap Manor, where we have just finished purging the place of Christmas. Our tree stopped taking in water long ago, but the needles stuck like glue to the very end. The branches, however, were dry as kindling, and tended to snap like icicles if we tried to bend them.

Andrea Harris, on her old Spleenville blog, had a charming Christmas image of a happy '50s family scene. (The picture's not there anymore.) The kids get the ornaments out while Dad fiddles with the stand and Mom holds the tree straight for him. This is the way Niles and I did it (except for the kids part). I wonder what Mrs. Pearls 'n Heels did when her Hubby said, "OK, it's not in straight. Can you lift it up and turn it 180 degrees?" When they took the tree out, was she the one who got to lift it over her head to throw it in the dumpster? No, probably not.

As always, I hated to take the tree out. I hate to take a nice tree, cut it down, stick it in my lair for a bit, then toss it out like garbage. Years ago, every year I would vow, "Next year a live tree!" that I could plant in the yard and enjoy forever. But as the chance for a yard "next year"---or indeed, any year---dwindled, I sort of gave that up.

One day in the far future, archaeologists will study our strange Christmas customs. Will they impute great religious significance to the Christmas tree? After all, it takes a great deal of energy to decorate the tree, and the things people are willing to spend energy on are the things that are very important to them. I figure that setting up and decorating---and then taking down---the tree is at least two days' worth of labor, what with vacuuming, moving furniture, vacuuming, getting the tree, setting up the tree, vacuuming, getting every single thing out of the closet to get to the Christmas ornaments, vacuuming, and decorating the tree. And then we had to vacuum.

(But, apparently, not very closely. It was my job to hand-pluck needles from near the baseboard where the vacuum wouldn't work. I was stabbed by pine needles. Note that we did not have a pine tree this year, we had a fir; nor has Niles had a Christmas tree here since 1993. We always have Christmas at my place, wherever that is; in '93 it was here. I guess Mr. Neatnik isn't as fussy as I thought.)

I imagine that archaeologists of the future will have strange and wonderful explanations for the importance of the Christmas tree tradition, very nearly all of them wrong. (After all, even present-day, amateur sociologists sometimes err, as in this report from a newcomer to our shores, who was told by a slightly-usedcomer that generic store-bought Christmas ornaments are "quite offensive" to Americans, which explains why we didn't see any in the stores. Oh, wait, we did.)

My musings on fantasy future archaeologists make it a bit difficult to take some of the current practicioners seriously.

(Thanks to Prof. Bunyip for the heartwarming story of the offensive ornaments.)