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Gristmill: Hung Up on the Tree

Wed, 12/13/2023 - 19:04
Hang ’em high! The Christmas lights, that is, seen here at the barn at Marders nursery in Bridgehampton, the ne plus ultra of holiday decoration.
Baylis Greene

Family lore from Sunday night’s dinner had my uncle Bob angrily torpedoing a first, early marriage for no other reason than the violation of holiday protocol. The woman dared to decorate the tree before Christmas Eve.

The Silver Fox, he used to call himself. An Army guy for a lot of years and a Vietnam vet, later an assistant principal at a public school in Florida. You wonder which duty was more hazardous. 

Maybe the outrage was merely an excuse for an exit. Who knows. Those were different times, midcentury, the country a different, more freewheeling place.

These days, waiting till Christmas Eve seems awfully long for a tree to remain nude in its greenery. But ’twas once the norm, I gather, to mark the end of Advent and usher in the old Twelve Days of.

But, the trees. Is it true what they say about a shortage? A result of the devastation wrought by the interminable Canadian wildfires? Or is that just more talk, as the screws are once again put to the hapless American consumer simply because they can be. I see that you have to drive to a Riverhead box store to find a tree of more than chest height for under 70 bucks.

Chez Greene, ours went up on the first day of Advent, not the last, ornaments hung by the one kid remaining in the household, frozen pizza on the coffee table, cups of apple cider because eggnog had fled the grocery store shelves, and “Snoopy’s Christmas” by the ’60s outfit the Royal Guardsmen on the music box. Co-starring the enemy Red Baron, it’s an oddly successful pop depiction of the peaceable season bringing combatants to their senses, if only briefly.

Shades of Christmastime soccer matches breaking out between the Germans and the Brits amid the trenches of the Great War, mid-dogfight the Baron lays off and toasts the flying beagle.

“Why he didn’t shoot, well, we’ll never know. / Or was it the bells from the village below?”

What better time than this for cease-fires to proliferate.


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