Killing Time by the Tanner Girls

This is how my kids spend the day after Thanksgiving while I pick out the Christmas tree!  Although you only see one in the video, I can assure you, all are involved.

We hope your holiday was grand!

The Tanner Family

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The Horizontal Christmas Tree

xmas tree horizontal

It’s never, ever, ever good when you get that urgent Christmas tree catastrophe call.

Text last Monday:  The Christmas tree fell.  Come home now.

I’ve received that communique twice in my life.

I like pretty big Christmas trees; we have two.  This year, the small one has about an 8″ diameter trunk.  I screwed the supports into the booger with the same vigor I used to bolt my tires onto my car.  I mean business!  I actually use pliers to twist the metal in – sap oozes down my fingers.  When I was finished, the jessie was standing as straight as Miss Alabama in the Miss American contest.

I evened out the ornaments and gave it a little shake to make sure it was secure.

It stood for days – and then, ker-plunk!

Special ornaments were busted and Fraser fir needles were scattered around like germs from a sneeze.  I’m gonna be vacuuming those dudes up in July.

Why can’t they make a tree stand that can hold a durn tree up?  Would you make Tupperware that couldn’t hold soup???

As if getting the lights to stay on isn’t enough of a challenge, we have to deal with this too!  You can’t buy a Christmas tree stand that is big and sturdy enough to ensure verticality.  Would we try to balance the Statue of Liberty on a thimble?  I think not!  Target, Walmart, Home Depot – HELP US!

xmas tree horizontal 2

I lifted the thing back up, rehung the lights that once lay on the top of the tree but had moved to its waist, and tied her with bobbed wire onto two separate door handles.  If it comes down again, the door frame to my front porch is coming with it, and I’m gonna take it directly to the street – lights, ornaments, garland and all!

Errrrrr…

Deck the Halls, yeah right!

Xmas tree

I had to cut back on decorations this year.  Our house was beginning to look like Christmas had vomited on us.  It was just too, dag-gone, much!

We were moving along fine in our preparations for the holidays – agreed upon what to leave in the attic, outside and mantle all dolled up, the stockings hung by the chimney with, well, care, I guess.  And then, then as the Justin Bieber Christmas CD played its last song, I opened our box of lights for the tree.

I am convinced that Ebenezer Scrooge’s descendents own the factory that manufactures Christmas tree lights.  Him or possibly the Grinch – or perhaps some  unbeliever who likes to see Christians use our savior’s name in an unbecoming manner.  These translucent strands of beauty bring out the ugly in me indeed.

I simply don’t understand.  How can you run a business by making something that has a 50% chance of working?  What if I did that at the Y?  I’m sorry ma’am, only half of the treadmills are working today – you can kick the broken ones, perhaps shake them; here is a fuse, see if you can replace it, maybe that’s the problem.  Good luck!

It would not work!  I couldn’t get away with it!

And to make it worse, there is no rhyme or reason as to when and if they will work.  On strand A, every other light works.  Strand B?  The first 50 are beaming, the next 50 are dark.  Strand C?  All work!  Strand D?  None.

AHHH.

The one I currently hold in my hand works if I hold the right side above my head.  I guess I’ll start it at the top of the tree.  Had one a minute ago that worked if I jiggled (not me, the lights!)

And yet, I would not be surprised if my personal jiggling might somehow flicker them off or on!  Drink orange juice, all come on.  Lick a sucker, they’re out again.  What, what random source is controlling these ornery minions?  Is it Gru?  Vector??  Who is doing this to us?

I finally, finally got them all on, every light was glowing.  We hung our 6,000 ornaments and sat down to admire.  As I smiled, proud of what we’d accomplished, I noticed, that right smack dab in the middle of my Frazier Fir two rows of lights sans light.

Next year, I’m going with Little House on the Prairie: waxing candles to the limbs.  It has to be easier than this.

Sunday Post 101: Astounding Love

The Healing Tree

The Healing Tree

In December of 2009 as Lisa was headed to surgery to remove her large tumor, some friends of ours did a really special thing for us.

They felt like a lot of people would want to support the Tanner family at Christmas.  Rather than encouraging folks to help in their own way, these friends put together a coordinated effort to do something that would be both meaningful and lasting.

Our first two elves came by our house in early December. They delivered a small Christmas tree full of lights, an angel for the topper and a beautiful hand-made tree skirt with our name embroidered across the front. They told us they had delivered our “Healing Tree” and that ornaments would soon follow.

Over the next four weeks, we received over 200 packages in the mail or on our front porch.  In each one, there was an ornament. With each ornament, there was a story – a story of how that person was connected to our family.

An English tea cup

An English tea cup

One English woman at Lisa’s work sent a teacup because Lisa always picked on her about her accent. A college friend tied string to a matchbox car van – a similar vehicle to the one they drove to Florida one spring break.

Some sent small framed photographs from years past. DSCN7380Lisa worked in fundraising and one lady made up a tiny rolodex with a fake listing of capital campaign prospects.

The creativity was impressive. The deeper meaning for us brought laughter and tears.

Putting up ornaments this year was not nearly as emotional as years past – until I opened the Healing Tree box. Every item I touched had such significance.

It’s not just the loss of Lisa that I feel when I think about that tree, that’s only part of the emotion.  Equally touching is the reminder of the love that was shown to our family during that most difficult time and my lack of ability to repay those who gave so much.

When you are so fully surrounded by love; when you know how desperately people hurt for and with you; it is a beautiful thing. I’ve seen compassion every day of my life, but never had I so personally experienced it in such an overwhelmingly large dose.

I am not thankful for my loss, but how fortunate I am to have experienced that astounding love.

The Smarties Star - sent to us by a college roommate who apparently ate a few of these with Lisa at UNC

Tree Traditions

For the past decade, our family has gone to the mountains Thanksgiving weekend to cut down our Christmas tree.  It’s a pretty big deal.

We get two, and I’m sort of picky.  Most years Lisa and the girls would end up in the car as I meticulously combed through each tree on the lot.  I mean seriously, how can you choose one until you’ve reviewed them all?  You gotta browse, test drive, measure, envision – it’s a very important decision.

I’ve been known to lay on the ground in front of the tree to ensure that it is wide enough for the space in our den – six feet works well.  We have A LOT of ornaments, plus I like big stuff.  I  don’t want a petite tree.  I want a hunkin’ manly one – I want to yell TTTTiiiiimmmber as it falls to the ground.  You don’t get to say that often.

One year I overshot the height, and we had to cut off about a third of the tree.  It looked odd.  But it was big.

Since Lisa died, I sort of count the day at the tree farm as a passage – I ‘m a little bit further down the road.

The first year after she died, Uncle Jesse went with us to cut down the tree.  It was really nice to have him there although the two country men running the farm determined that we were a gay couple.  They were snickering behind the barn as we coerced another hand to take our family Christmas card photo.  It sort of ticked me off – I thought maybe we were beyond giggling about that.  Plus, if I was gay, I wouldn’t pick him!  He’s just not that good-looking, and he really isn’t very good around the house.

Before we left, I introduced them to my brother-in-law and let them know my wife had recently died of colon cancer – the giggles dissipated.

Last year we stayed in a sort of seedy motel.  The kids thought the television was a microwave –

“Where’s the door dad?”

“The door to what?”

“The door to the microwave.”

“That’s not a microwave, it’s a TV!”

“But it has brown paneling.”

My kids are so dang privileged.

We went to a nearly empty restaurant with a one man band.  The girls and I danced under the mirror ball.

I thought this year was going to go off like a charm.  I was quicker than usual and actually managed to choose two trees from the $5 off lot.  Both were small enough to load onto the top of Uncle Matt’s car.  But after I’d made my choices and gotten the kids’ approval, they disappeared.  When I finally found them, they had planted themselves around a tiny tree that had been lost among the tall ones.

“Dad, we want this tree.”

“Look Charlie Brown, we have two, don’t need another, let’s go.”

And clearly in a rehearsed voice, all three said, “We’re not leaving without him!”

Yes, much like the Hostess employees, they had a minivan walkout.  The union had spoken, and there was no room for negotiation.

When I discovered it too was on the $5 off lot and would cost me a mere Lincoln, I was swayed.  Some things just aren’t worth the trouble.

When Lisa died one of her “House Rules” was:  Gang up on dad when he won’t do something that you know I’d approve of.

These chickens are taking her at her word.  It’s a hard argument for a tired old man.