Monday, December 06, 2010

New Christmas Paradigms (or, No One Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen)

The tree is up, finally. As always, it’s beautiful and there is a railroad running under its branches, but this year, the branches are not real. The tree is fake, a consequence of my daughter having flunked an allergy test. She should have studied harder! On Thanksgiving weekend, we headed to the big city and shopped for trees that won’t make her sick for the holidays. We found a nice 7 ½ foot one at Hobby Lobby, already decked out with white lights. I felt my stars were aligned as it was on sale, two hundred bucks instead of four hundred, but then all the trees seemed to be on sale (but not as much as they are after the holidays, probably because they retail price is double what they think they can get for each tree. So we brought it home and got down to decorating.

This year I planned to start a new railroad. I got out my new train—a 1948 S-Gauge American Flier. It’d belonged to my step-grandfather. My grandmother gave it to me several years ago and I finally got around to getting the replacement pieces and was overjoyed to find that the train still worked. It’s heavy, made of steel, and features a Pennsylvania steam locomotive and a few cars. It also has a working pump car with two Gandy dancers who seemingly carry out the backbreaking work of propelling the vehicle. I was looking forward to having the locomotive pulling a load of cars and chasing the Gandy dancers around my tree. Besides, few people have an antique electric train running around their tree (perhaps because they’re a fire hazard?) and it’d give people something to talk about at holiday gatherings. But, for a reason I’ve yet to discover the locomotive would no longer run like it did when I checked it out. I think I need to rewire the engine as it draws in power from the wheels on the tender and the wires that bring the power to the engine are a bit frayed. Without having the time to take care of that, I got out my HO gauge train.

With Christmas music playing, we went to work on the tree. I can attest, it’s much easier to put up and artificial one and in matter of minutes, the tree was up and straight! Although I love real trees, I was thinking that I won’t have to worry about sap on my train tracks. I plugged it in. It was beautiful. All the lights were on… Well, almost all the lights were one, there was one section of strings in the bottom of the tree. Supposedly, if one light goes out, the whole string isn’t to go out and I was curious as to what had happened. There was a loose wire in the tree. That won’t do, I thought, so another trip was scheduled to the big city to return the tree. Meanwhile, a call was made and we discovered that the store was being overwhelmed with returns of this particular tree. Not a good sign.

Another trip to the big city was made. We returned the tree and began the shopping experience all over again. At Sears, my daughter found one she liked. I agreed, it was pretty even though I have always been a white light person and this tree had multi-colored lights. Also in its favor was the price. It was even cheaper than the Hobby Lobby tree (almost enough to cover the gas expenses for these two trips). I’ll take it,” I said, wanting to be out of the tree procurement business. The saleswoman went to the computer and put the information in and her face went long. According to her records they were out of that tree, but there was one ½ way across the state! That wouldn’t do! My daughter piped up and asked if we could buy the one on the floor (and idea I liked because I could see all the lights were working), and she agreed but said she had no boxes. “I’ll find a box,” I said. I brought the tree and hauled it home and by 9 PM on Thursday night, it was up and my train was running and all was well.

Everyone once in a while, one has to start new traditions. In 53 years of walking on this earth, this is my first artificial tree (I hope Baby Jesus and Santa don’t mind). Also, for the first time as an adult, I have a tree with multi-colored lights. But all is well and I bet I won’t still be vacuuming up needles this July!


  1. My wife cannot abide the thought of an artificial tree, but I'm getting to the age where the ease of putting one up which you describe is becoming ever more appealing. I need to try to convince her.

    BTW, my dad used to have an HO gauge model of the General from the fifties which he put up around the tree. Alas, my mom has misplaced it so I've not had the opportunity to share it with my kids. That was the most magical thing about Christmas morning: seeing the train run around all the presents.


  2. I haven't even set up a Christmas tree in quite a while. We have a non evergreen fake tree that we have lights on but it's not really Christmas related.

  3. I was resistant to the artificial tree thing myself, but see the value in it now and have one myself. Our new pastor wanted to put a live tree and garlands up in the sanctuary of our church and oh my, the discussion that sparked! We're using the artificial stuff - same thing, some people with allergies. :)

  4. I've been leaning towards purchasing my first artificial tree but haven't yet. Perhaps when my daughter gets a little older to where she doesn't enjoy the tree as much...

    I used to play with my grandfather's old s-scale train and I remember having to lightly sand the tracks to remove oxidation make a better connection.

  5. Thanks for sharing! And I remember my first Lionel set!

    Left track marks- (not really) on my arm!

    God Bless and Keep you Bro!


  6. Oh man, that sounds like a looong day! I may have given up (at least for the day) after the first tree was up, saved the getting a new one for another day. Needless to say, it is beautiful and I think the train is a very nice touch. :)

  7. I miss having a real Christmas tree. It's been at least 12 years since I've had one. I know this because in the 11 years since I've been married and living with my wife, we've always had an artifical tree.

  8. Finding the right Christmas tree is serious business. I'm glad you found one with lights (who cares if they're not white this year, they work!)...and you must've gotten a fine deal on the floor model. Good for you!

    PS - I'd like to see a close-up of your new train!

  9. Oh your tree is perfect, and they make the fake trees so real these days...don't say a word and probably nobody will notice. Seriously! I love the train there is something about Christmas and trains that captures my heart...I wish there were more real live trains in my home town..... You are on the right track for having happy holidays and I hope your Christmas is filled with love and joy and trains and more trains!

  10. Loved your story and enjoyed reading all the other comments. I'm all for artificial trees if they look super and come with lights. Ours came from Martha Stewart 4-5 years ago, and it still looks fine. Put it together today, in fact, and it took all of about 10 minutes!

    I'm wondering how model trains got associated with Christmas trees. I remember laying tracks for one when I was a kid but have no memory of the train itself.

  11. Glad your daughter's allergies will not sustain a beating this season. Your tree is beautiful, and after that adventure I'm sure it better be!

  12. Oh, what a lovely post! New traditions are never a bad idea...and it's nice to shake things up with multi-colored lights for a change.

    Coincidentally, I'm going to do multi-colored lights this year (instead of my usual antique white) for Connor. Kids absolutely prefer the multi...and Christmas is all about giving, right?

    Love the idea of your train going 'round the tree. I'll bet everything looks lovely.

  13. You are very early putting up decorations in the States. What I really love though is the LED lights that we can get now. One can cover the entire house for the cost of a normal bulb, almost.
    What is the kid allergic to on the tree. Is she small enough that you can put one of those fireguard thingies.
    Lovely idea though.

  14. Why didn't you just add a string of clear lights to the first tree and call it a day? Eventually some will burn out anyway. Will you replace the whole tree again then too?

    I love my real tree although if the city stops the Christmas tree curbside pick up, I might rethink it.

  15. I've had artificial the last two years, and it makes me sad. I miss having a real tree a lot.

    My Aunt and Uncle put up a train under their tree every year!

    But it's not an antique. Nor is it made of steel.

  16. We went artificial about 8 years ago and I have never looked back!

    I decorated in a home today with a beautiful fresh tree, but it took two women 3 hours to light it, with over 4000 lights. My eyes have itched ever since I touched it - and I have never been allergic to one before.

  17. Thanks for all the comments... Murf, there was a problem with the wiring that was visible to my eyes, that's why I didn't replace the strand of lights... I figured if their work was that sloppy, I didn't want to risk it.