What Happens when a Pantheist Decorates Your Christmas Tree?

December 8, 2009

Roz has a close encounter with Christmas tree ornaments.

Above: Five minutes into my stint as a Christmas tree decorator and we have our first fatality: a circa-1960 glass ornament that is as beautiful broken as it was whole. Check out the room reflections!

Yes, this pantheist actually got up on a 8-foot ladder to help decorate at 12-foot tall tree! (Yes Linda, me!)

My friend Diane recently had a partial knee replacement and while she is doing spectacularly well in her post surgery recovery I did think it would be a good idea if I offered to help her decorate her Christmas Tree. I don’t know that I was much help, dropping one ornament from 12 feet (it hit the ladder and shattered; the only time I’ve been glad there were no dogs in my life at present) barely five minutes into the job, but I seemed to catch on to the few rules Diane has (mostly about filling up holes and not putting too many candles in one place) and had a great time—culminating in getting tangled in tulle which was wrapping some ornaments and using it to decorate the tree (we’ll see if that gets edited out later but seriously it makes a great stuffer for those dark, inner recesses where there are no convenient branches and no more large ornaments to hang).

Speaking of large ornaments I’m now in a fever to get some Styrofoam balls (5 or 6 inches wide at least) and cover them with satin and ribbon and braid and other trim, to make gigantic but lightweight ornaments to fill holes in tree decoration—and I don’t have a tree and never will.

I wrote about Diane’s tree last year and you can see photos of her finished 2008 tree at that post. The players (ornaments) have stayed the same, but the configuration changes.

Tree8668 Left: The tree as it was left last night at 9:30. Diane pronounced it 98 percent finished! My portion of this tree was small indeed as many of the decorations had been applied by Diane and her family members already. I simply filled some holes. I was there for 5 hours, and a portion of that was spent eating dinner, but the bulk of it was working on those holes, so imagine how many man-hours are in this tree! Click on the image to view an enlargement and see the ladder on which I was working.

I’m fascinated by the many ornament shapes and types. I peppered Diane with questions about them as I hung them, or as I discovered interesting shapes and features while pushing past to fill a hole. (I think I might be a little exhausting to be around even if you aren’t recovering from knee surgery!) So last night on my drive home I came up with the brilliant idea that Diane should make a book for her children and their young children—a book of photos of all the ornaments (singly and in groups as appropriate) and then make little paragraph “stories” about them explaining the designer who made them or the relative who gave them or the place she and Eric were when they purchased it (I like finding the Tiger and the Wolf ornaments on the tree because I was there the day they bought those: it was the day we went with Jack, now gone, to the Russian Art Museum here in town and had a brilliant day).

All of this could then be put together at or and made into a little book that she could order copies of and give to her family next year at Christmas. How slick is that? (I even told her I’d help her set the book up at the publisher.) I’d like one, to remember all those stories I heard last night.

TreeSide8666 Right: A side view of a portion of the tree, showing a delightful array of ornaments. Diane's tree is a high-quality artifical tree (it looks real folks!) and has built in lights.

And it could have a subject index because I noticed there were a whole lot of Santas clustered in the bottom on the piano side of the tree—wood Santas, painted Santas, beeswax Santas, fabric Santas, Santas in traditional Nordic gear skiing on wooden skis, Santas sporting Hawaiian shirts, Santas on skateboards and Harleys. A regular Santa fest! And the same could be said for angels, and deer. And the subject index could account for all the different animals, birds, and fishes represented; organize the various teddy bears, as opposed to but in some instances including, pandas and polar bears—heck there might even be a ven-diagram for the various bear varieties.

PointDrop8660 Left: Wouldn't you like to be able to read the history of this pointy-drop ornament? Do they even make them like this any more? Who selected it? When did it first hang on the tree?

I want this book. Don’t you? Don’t you want to make one of your own if you decorate a tree? I
hope you do. Then if I show up at your door to decorate your tree you
can hand me the book, point me to a corner and let me read about the
history of your family, while you get down to decorating business, free
from annoying and incessant questions; and free from worry over breakage.

Who knew this tree decorating could be so damn fun! (Oh, and did I mention I got fed? Lovely Creole shrimp and cornbread. I had two helpings of everything [Thank you Eric!]. Tree trimming is hard work.)

Below: Another view of that broken ornament, which reflects the room (the windows, paintings, fireplace). Clearly I was having too much fun. Note: this was the only ornament I broke, though I did drop one other ornament, but it was not glass! And I also have to mention that Diane is the most even tempered of individuals, not a hint or a cluck of displeasure or disappointment was heard when the ornament dropped. She brightly exclaimed that she'd seen a recessed table top covered with glass, filled with broken ornaments on a holiday show and couldn't wait to try that out. That's a cool and collected hostess!


  1. Reply

    What a fun post Roz!! Yes, a book like that would be fun to make AND to read, an heirloom in itself! I’m gonna post this over on our class (Kate’s Keeping an Artist’s Journal) list, too! Very glad no paws were cut! Broken ornament table…hmm. My daughter’s going to grow up and be just like you, so curious and inquisitive!!

    Happy Holidays Roz!

  2. Reply


    • karen
    • December 8, 2009

    Roz, your book idea about the ornaments works for any kind of family heirloom or collection. I’m working on one of all the things that were my mother’s and her mother’s and her mother’s mother’s. Otherwise they’ll be forgotten… the people, the stories, and the things. Diane should do some drawings, not just photos. And, btw, I think I see an empty space in that first closeup of the tree.


    • Caroline Berk
    • December 8, 2009

    Into a little series of gloomy days drops such a beautiful tree. Thank you. The inside of the broken bulb was a gift all in itself.

  3. Reply

    Hmmm, I didn’t see this pic and didn’t get the link on your FB page.

    I thought that maybe you’d left the tree in the woods, to survive another year.

    My tree has been hung upside down, 5 feet off the ground, in the living room for the last 15 years, I’ve never taken it down. The angel always looked like she was walking through the plastic boughs, since she was tied to what is (was formally) the top of the tree.

    It’s been a very stressful year, and I hadn’t even looked in that direction for months, and I looked the other day, and my pitbull has pulled the angel off the tree, and pretty much stripped her nekked.

    I can’t imagine the screaming.

    • Roz
    • December 8, 2009

    Karen, normally I’m in agreement to any additional sketching, but for this project I think it has to be photos—it’s also an insurance record and that needs to be photos—it can double as an insurance record anyway.

    Hah, of course you see an empty space, that wasn’t my side of the tree!!!! (Diane saw one yesterday morning too.)

    It’s endless!!

    I’m glad you’re working on the belongings or your female ancestors. I look forward to seeing it!!!!!

    • Roz
    • December 8, 2009

    Caroline, yes, that broken bulb was a gift in a lot of ways. And it is so beautiful, yet SHARP!

    • Roz
    • December 8, 2009

    Suzanne, I don’t know what the deal was with Facebook. There should be a place there that you can click to come and see the original post, the image, the full text. Check around and see if you can find that “label” next time.

    Diane’s tree is artificial so no trees were injured to have this decoration fun! And it’s a good thing too because while I love the smell of some types of evergreens, there are some I’m allergic to and I wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in the room with them, and would have been covered in welts from reaching deep inside to fill holes!

    I have never heard of anyone storing a Christmas tree upside down in their living room. Very interesting. I imaging you must have some sort of high ceiling, or a small tree, since it’s 5 feet off the ground! I hope you have drawn a photo of this arrangement in your journal!

    As to the angel, well I can only say that your pitbull sounds like a very sensible sort!

    I hope the new year see a relief from your stress!!!

    Pat that pitbull for me!

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