This weekend I decided it was time to put up my Christmas tree. I had already done the hard part, shopping for it on a raw blustery day several weekends earlier, going out to a nearby tree lot and standing around freezing for awhile in the midst of bundled firs and bound pines, hefting the trees, feeling their needles, getting pitch on my fingers. After pretending to pick out a likely candidate I went home empty-handed, feeling smug that I had just saved $80, again.
(Right: Christmas time in Falls Church. The bicycle bridge over Route 7 on the W&OD.) You see, I bought a discounted artificial tree after the 2001 holiday season for $130. But I was lazy and although I had done my yearly "shopping" for a tree, I didn't haul it out of my basement that weekend to set it up. By this weekend I was out of time, so on Saturday night I brought its three component containers upstairs. To my horror I discovered that the large plastic bin holding the middle branches and the long strands of wooden cranberries and miniature candy canes in it had two inches of water inside, from when my basement had flooded months earlier. The bottom-lying branches were orange with rust and the strings of beads were mossy with mold. I took the rank mess outside and dumped it on my porch, where it stayed overnight.
In the daylight I attacked the problem. I laboriously washed the mold off of each wooden bead on the two strings of garland. I had purchased these strands at a post-Christmas sale several years back for 50 cents each and I had grown attached to these earth-friendly tree trimmers. I didn't care that the candy-apple red berries were now nutmeg-brown. Seasoning, I thought, they were merely antiquing.
Next I took a brush to the tree branches and scrubbed the rust off the afflicted limbs as best I could. Then I set the dozen rusty spokes of fake evergreen branches out in the driveway to dry, each corrupted wire strand now covered with tiny brown shoots that looked like dried-out pine needles do when it becomes time to drag a real Christmas tree out to the curb after New Year's Day. Wizening, I thought, the tree was simply changing with age.
It's up now, and I have been running a space age heater near it to further dry it out. It came out pretty well. (Left: My Christmas tree set up last year. Some of the bright green pine needles and strung red berries are now brown with "age." Photo credit S.)