Oh, Vengeful Tree


Late last week I took down our Christmas tree. A month after Christmas Eve.

That does not eclipse last year’s record. Our 2011 tree (mentioned here) stuck around until Valentine’s Day.

But last year’s Douglas-fir didn’t fling itself to the ground. It didn’t capsize, splashing a gallon of water on our hardwoods.

We didn’t lasso that tree to the curtain rod in the doorway.


However, our most recent Christmas tree swooned within days. And after mopping up the mess, I never replenished its water supply.

My excuse: I wanted to avoid another spill. But secretly I harbored some spite and thought, “We invite you, Tree, into our house… and this is how you repay us? No water for you!”

After a few weeks, though, I felt guilty. Obviously, we’d shortened the tree’s life when we severed the trunk from the roots. But withholding water? I killed the tree twice over. I tortured an innocent evergreen. 

But before exiting our house, the tree exacted revenge.

Late Wednesday night, as I enjoyed a solitary moment of mindless TV… and basked in the twinkly Christmas tree lights… I heard a low, lingering creak. Not the creak from yielding floorboards or of a radiator, sending steam through the pipes.

It was the sound of our sickly-brown Christmas tree, tugging at it moorings.

I hazarded a sideways glance, as if I didn’t want the tree to know that I knew what it was doing. It was plotting another nosedive and judging from its jaunty angle, it would crash into the mantlepiece.

The next day I gave the tree the boot. I plucked off the ornaments and wrestled free the tangled strings of lights.

It would’ve been easier to disarm a cactus. There was no avoiding the brittle, painfully sharp needles. As I gingerly reached through the branches, the needles clung to the boughs, piercing my clothes and skin.

“Ow..ow…ow! Dammit!” I yelled with each grab.

“Dammit, Mommy,” Brynn replied from the other room.

Finally stripped bare, the tree could be ushered out. (A task for Martin.)

There was just one minor casualty. As I nursed my pricked fingers and glared at the naked tree, it discharged a forgotten ornament with a tinkly ring.

One broken heart. Duly noted.


Christmas Aftermath


Coherent thoughts, complete sentences and meaningful posts will resume once these kids return to school. For the time being, I’m leaning heavily on photos. And a fleeting word or two, in the momentary pause between someone yelling “Mom? Mom! Mommmmm…..Where are you?”

I try to hide. Right now I’m hunkered down behind the bed — sitting on the floor, my laptop tottering on my knees. And I’m typing…. as gently and soundlessly as possible.

But those gremlins always sniff me out. Here comes one now. Thumping up the stairs like a wounded wildebeest, then silent…pausing to listen…before cracking open my bedroom door. Then Thump-Thump-Thump… around the bed and — voila…

…or “viola” as my Dad liked to say…

I’ve been found.

So with that, here are a few holiday photos.

Christmas morning… here’s the typical scene moments before the kids lay a path of destruction.

Note the bailing twine in the top left corner — tethering the tree to the doorway. See, the tree fell down 10 days ago. It was what you’d expect — a hailstorm of ornaments and a peppering of pine needles. But there was an added bonus: all the water in the base spilled out, seeping through the floor boards into the cellar. So that twine is there to prevent a repeat performance.

But this next photo really sums up Christmas morning. After ripping open every present possible, it’s time to build. Assembly required. With a mimosa nearby, of course.



Christmas Day isn’t complete without a walk up the driveway with Bugsy. We pull the pony from the field, grab the dog and set out. To see the cows.



The new cows. The previous cattle were loaded up a month ago and —

well… processed.

Here’s the next batch — 26 in all — still skittish and fascinated by the kids-pony-Border Collie freak show.



Normally, we head up the driveway and bang on Chet’s door. This year we visited the other neighbors. Walked past their chickens, turkeys, Highland cows (mentioned here) and into the barn..

…to see the day-old lamb, cooking beneath a heat lamp.



We kept our visit brief. The mother sheep wasn’t thrilled to see us. In fact, she looked menacing.

If it’s possible for a sheep to look menacing.


“I am going to mess you up,” she seemed to say.

So we hustled out of there. I wouldn’t let the kids get trampled.

Not on Christmas, at least….





Christmas Parade


Last weekend we officially welcomed the Christmas season.

Not by hanging lights, buying a tree or opening the advent calendar.

No, we marked the season by throwing out the Halloween candy —

–in preparation for the next round of dental-decaying decadence.

Last Saturday we attended the Middleburg Christmas Parade. Here’s a blog post and photo, circa 2010, from prior trips.



This time the kids were amped for sweets. And the event delivered.

Partipants smiled, waved and hurled candy at the crowd. And no matter how sparse the offerings, every child in a 15-yard radius scoured the pavement, snatching for loose morsels.

Their body language? Desperate, as if to say, I might not ever eat again!

Over time the parade route narrowed dramatically. Kids inched from the curb until eventually, the sidewalk was empty. It was like a magnetized force — the kids drawn toward the double yellow line, seeking handouts. When a car or tractor approached, the parents reeled them back in. But they’d dribble into the road again.

Veterans, we came prepared with candy bags. (Note Cayden’s bag promoted the “Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.” That’s age appropriate.)


Our friends Jenn and Bill were there, too. They live in the hinterland known as Virginia.

Here’s Jenn, filling in as mother hen. Actually, she looks like a TV mom. Too happy. That’s not normal.


 The secret is in her cup. It ain’t coffee.

Anyway, the kids collected candy and other random freebies.

Toothbrush, anyone?


No Christmas parade is complete without Santa. This year he looked like he’d swallowed a bowling ball.

Or entered his third trimester.


There were plenty of dogs, horses and llamas (or alpacas, I can’t tell the difference). And hay wagons brimming with screaming kids waving between the slats.

It was a great parade, infectious with Christmas spirit.

And far from any shopping malls.