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Coming Soon: Our Annual Tree-Jinx Opera

Monday 27 November 2017 at 8:53 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for November 23, 2017, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            For many years, about this time in November, my wife and I have acquired an evergreen tree, brought it home, attempted to attach it to a stand, or a stand to it, and centered it in front of our large living room window, thus readying it for its transformation from a plain fir, cedar, pine, or spruce to a dazzling Christmas tree.

            What could be simpler than that? My parents did it without a hitch. My wife’s parents did it without a hitch. So why, from the beginning, did we seem to be jinxed? Our Christmas-tree-past experiences naturally make me wonder what grand opera tumult will transpire this year.

            The first year we had a Christmas tree as a married couple was not exactly tumultuous, but it did sort of set the stage for the years ahead. We lived in “the apartments” in East Bernard, and not considering the small number of Christmas decorations we possessed, I bought a tree so large we had enough ornaments to cover only one side of the monster. Having just returned from graduate school, we had absolutely no extra money whatsoever, and I had spent most of it on the tree itself.

            So what do we do? A. Have the decorated side of the tree face us in the living room and keep the curtains on the huge window closed to the outside? B. Keep the curtains open during the daytime and let the decorated side show to the outside world, -- then, close the curtain at night and turn the decorated side to face us?

            We chose plan B, which was an option that got tiresome after a while. We were saved by the fact that my mother-in-law felt sorry for us, thought that her newly born grandbaby deserved a fully adorned tree, and obtained for us several boxes of ornaments and lights from her neighbor’s attic.

            From that Christmas on, and every year thereafter, Christmas tree time became a melodramatic opera, or a one-ring circus, played out in front of the large, living-room window of the house we eventually bought.

            Some years were more memorably melodramatic than others, but the jinx wouldn’t go away.

            The year that I had to have tri-focal glasses for the first time in my life, I sawed off the bottom of the cedar tree trunk, nailed the stand onto the trunk, placed it in front of the window, and behold: it leaned far, far more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

            Another year of leaning-tree melodrama was even more dramatic, because the tree kept leaning as I tightened the screws on the stand until it fell on top of my wife. Since this was a cedar with a heavy trunk, I was concerned that she was injured, so I frantically tried to pull her out from under it, while she, annoyed that I didn’t take a picture of the accident, kept yelling for me to get the camera, get the camera! Taking an after-the-fact photo was the best I could do!

            Last year’s episode won the prize for melodrama, however. We thought we had conquered all of the usual calamities by having our son-in-law saw off the trunk, bring the tree in, put the stand on it, and place it in front of the window.

            The next day, as my wife was preparing to attempt the ordeal of stringing lights in the tree without my help (because I get them so womperjawed), she suddenly stopped and stared intently at the center of the tree! I knew something was amiss!

            She turned her head and looked straight at me.

            “What is it?” I asked, thinking maybe the lights were exploding or something.

            “A snake,” she said calmly, as only a former biology teacher could do.

            “A snake!” I yelled, terrified, “I’ll go get the hoe!”

            “Don’t be silly,” she said as she found her gardening gloves and put them on. Then she pulled the branches back to search for the reptile.

            “Look out, it’s going to bite you through your gloves,” I shouted.

            “It can’t,” she said.

            “Why not?” I gulped.

            “Because I caught it,” she said, as she, smiling sweetly at the frightened creature, took him outside and let him go. She came back in and reported, “It was just a garter snake.”

            To me, a snake is a snake, and to think that we spent the night in a house with a snake in a tree in the living room! Yikes!

            Naturally, I can’t help but wonder what will happen in a few days, when we put up this year’s Christmas tree. With so many years of Christmas-tree melodrama, I anticipate that once again we will experience our annual tree-jinx opera.


Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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