Friday, December 9, 2011

Ellen McCarthy's rules for tree decorating

Every year the family gathers around our plastic evergreen to engage in the American ritual of tree decorating.

One by one we pull ornaments out of the box and unwrap them from the crumbled tissue paper intended to protect them from someone's (my) clumsiness. It's amazing how ornaments collect over the years. We always go into some vacationtown gift shop and come out with some trinket resembling our week's stay. As if a little santa wearing a hawaiian shirt and flip-flops could explain a trip to the beach, or an elf holding a maple leaf flag could explain our trip up north.  Some ornaments we pull out take quite a bit of brain-dusting before we remember where the hell they came from ("Thanks for the Disney Princess ornament Ex-Boyfriend's mom!"). Other ornaments induce laughter immediately, followed by some smart-ass anecdote glittered with nostalgia.

In tree-decorating, we all work well as a team.  My brother and I fluff the pieces. My mom strings lights. My dad sits and watches, brilliantly advising us every step of the way. Once that is finished my mom sits over the boxes of bulbs, unwraps them from their tissue-paper placenta and hands them to Sean and me for our savvy execution of ornament hanging. My father continues his brilliant advising.

My mom is quite particular about the way ornaments hang:
The Rules:
1. Plain bulbs go on the inside. Something she read in some decorating magazine about matching bulbs and how they bring the tree together.
"Erin, 1978. or is it 1998?
not sure.. the paint job looks
 like hell." thanks, Mom
2. Big, heavy ornaments go near the bottom. I suppose this is logical taking weight distribution and balancing the tree into account.
3. Free ornaments you get at a Hardee's don't make the cut. Even though we never hang them, we never throw them out either. Just put them back into the box to go through the same "WTF is this piece-o-crap doing in here" next year. mmmm, tradition.
4. Crappy homemade ornaments go on the back. Remember that little Rudolph you pasted together at a second grade girlscout's meeting? Your little hands put so much effort into making sure that little red pompom was pasted just so. And shoot, remember the considerable time it took you to glue on those antlers made out of sticks you found on the ground? Yeah, well, it looks like shit so put it on the back of the tree where no one can see it.

My brother and I think we're really funny when we put the ugly SundaySchool-crafted ornaments on the front. The best of these includes an ornament my brother made as a fifth grade ceramics project, literally just a brown and black chunk of clay. We called this our Christmas poo long before Mr. Hankey ever came about. 

It's funny how ADD my family gets about tree decorating; it's funny how ADD my family gets about everything, really. After the laughter dies down, somebody will leave the room, even just to go to the bathroom or something, and then one by one we'll get distracted, leaving Ellen McCarthy left to make her final touches. She probably likes it this way as our snarkiness can often be quite a distraction, and now she can make it actually look nice.
Magician ornament in loving memory of my grandpa, Donald McCarthy. 

No comments:

Post a Comment