Cambrian: Slice of Life

Getting the family Christmas tree up this year nothing short of a miracle. Here’s why

The Tanner family Christmas tree is decked out, Central Coast style.
The Tanner family Christmas tree is decked out, Central Coast style.

As I write this, it isn’t quite December yet, and our Christmas tree is already decked out for the season. That accomplishment was neither as simple nor as complicated as it sounds.

I was glad I could do it this year, given all the extenuating circumstances.

No, it’s not a crucial concern in the grand scheme of things. But with the year we’ve had, we really needed some uplifting holiday spirit.

Like most people, I cherish gilded memories of decorating a holiday tree with my spouse, our children and other family members. Wrestling with the lights. Hanging tinsel one strand at a time. Eating more popcorn than we strung. Helping my mom hang the diorama ball from her childhood. Magic.

Our other ornaments reflected experiences of several lifetimes.

Wooden cutouts our young sons had painted. Silk balls I’d draped and pinned with beads and pearls. Silver snowflakes that were my grandmother’s. Special baubles we’d bought one at a time to commemorate significant events.

But times change, and family dynamics evolve. Kids grow up and have families, trees, ornaments and traditions of their own.

So, our tree decorating now is up to me, because my adult guys don’t particularly enjoy hanging silly stuff on a fake tree. (Yes, I miss having fresh-cut or live trees inside, but they trigger Husband Richard’s asthma.)

This year’s extenuating circumstances? For openers, nearly all of our holiday decorations are carefully tucked away in an offsite storage unit, along with a ton of things we’ll probably never use again, stuff we’re spending an accumulated fortune to keep, just in case. Sigh.

That treasure trove of clutter includes small artificial trees — already decorated to display during the holidays — plus box after box of those family-tradition ornaments, a set of Christmas dinner dishes and who knows what all else.

So why is that a problem?

In previous years, I’ve simply unlocked and rolled up the big metal door to get inside the warehouse, or our resident Son Brian would do it.

This year, however, he’s still recovering from major emergency surgery he had in early October and certainly won’t be lifting that heavy, uncooperative door in the foreseeable future.

With my bum shoulder, neither will I. So near and yet so far away.

Sure, I could have asked others for help, but I’m independent and stubborn. I wanted to do it myself, even if that meant doing without.

Fortunately, my equally stubborn Tanner men have insisted for years that they like our three holiday trees so much, they want them up all year.


But Santa faces in July? Ummm, no.

The compromise was redecorating the trees to celebrate other seasons and holidays … red for Valentine’s Day, pastels for spring holidays, flag colors for summer, autumn hues and pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving, and then we’re back to Christmas again.

Guess who gets to redecorate? Yup. Because I’m doing it on my own, I’ve gradually shortened the process (also known as cheating).

Fortunately, two trees have year-round décor. Our “beach tree” is bedecked with shells, starfish and oceanic ornaments. The skating tree is accented by ice-skate adornments from dear friend Geri Warren.

And the big tree? I get a good head start on it because the lights, gold and silver tinsel garlands, bead strands and chains stay on the faux pine all year.

But how to create a Christmas mood without our traditional ornaments? I wasn’t going to buy a new set when we’ve already got so many more sets than we’ll ever use.

Eventually, this year’s magic came from bunches of silk flowers, especially poinsettias (of course), from our basement storage area.

It’s not traditional. It’s not what I’m used to.

But you know what? It works. It’s remarkably Christmassy.

And what took it over the top? An unexpected holiday offer.

As I was buying a few more blossoms in Morro Bay, I told the clerk that the poinsettias would be our Christmas-tree decorations, and why.

The next people in line asked me where I live.

Puzzled, I replied “Cambria,” and the gentleman mused, “Well, I could meet you over there and open the warehouse door for you.”

Astonished, I didn’t take him up on his remarkably thoughtful offer, and I was so wide-eyed enchanted by it that I forgot to get his name!

Whoever you are, Mr. Christmas Elf, thank you for restoring my holiday spirit.

So, the Tanners’ Christmas tree this year is decorated with lots of flowers, some sparkly stuff and the best kind of spontaneous holiday goodwill, Central Coast style.

Works for me.

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