Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 9, 2012

HOPKINS:

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It’s that time of year again. Time to pick out a Christmas tree that will be prominently displayed in our living room until the Jan. 6 Feast of the Epiphany.

In previous years when I was at the Tonawanda News I’ve used this space at this time of year to detail the misadventure my wife Colleen and I had the year before with our tree. But this year there’s nothing to write about. That’s because we didn’t have a misadventure with our tree in 2010 or in 2011.

The tree didn’t fall over. There were no electrical issues. The tree fit perfectly in its stand. Nor did the tree inexplicably dry out. Yes, we lost an ornament or two, but who doesn’t when they’re dealing exclusively with all-glass ornaments?

By the end of this week our tree will be standing in our living room, after we’ve rearranged all the furniture, of course. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue the streak: three straight years without issues.

Usually we buy a tree that takes up about a third of the living room because Colleen adores oversized Christmas trees. This year, however, we’re looking to scale back a little. That’s because with some family issues going on,we’re going to be in and out of our place so much that we’re not going to have as much time to truly enjoy the tree.

But, back to the task at hand. Although there is no tree mishap to report from last year, I’ve experienced other tree misadventures over the years.

Such as the year I was in kindergarten and our new cat Alex — a kitten, actually — decided to do what cats do when they see a tree. He climbed it, reaching dizzying heights and causing ornaments to fall to the floor. Some ornaments fell straight down, others toppled from limb to limb on their gravity-induced journey, like something you’d see in an old Tom & Jerry cartoon when Tom would build one of his mousetraps.

After that first Christmas, Alex didn’t care to climb the tree. He did, however, delight for a few years in batting a bell that always hung from a lower branch. (Guess who strategically put it there?) The rest of the time he found that the white sheet wrapped around the trunk made a perfect bed.

Then there was the year that the family tree fell. Well, almost fell. My sister Therese caught it as it was falling. Sort of. It was falling toward her, and she screamed and caught it, propping it up best she could until we came running in from the kitchen to help. But first, I laughed.

We determined the tree wasn’t in the stand properly but because it was partially decorated, we weren’t about to try and set it correctly. Instead, I retrieved a cinder block from the backyard and placed it on the opposite side of the tree stand, to counter the canting conifer.

We then placed a sheet around the tree, cleverly hiding the cinderblock from view. Had my father ever known, he would have been fit to be tied. There would have been a lecture about doing things right the first time. Surprisingly, he never cast a suspicious eye at that tree. “Surprisingly,” because a Christmas wasn’t a Christmas without my dad complaining that the tree was leaning. Our usual response: “The tree’s not leaning, Dad … you’re leaning.”

Speaking of Dad, he hated to see a burned out bulb, whether on the tree or among the outdoor lights hanging from the house and garage. He’d see a burned-out bulb and begin muttering to himself about how they don’t make things like they used to, how he used to go to the movies for a quarter and now he’d have to pull out the step ladder and hope he doesn’t slip on the ice. Exactly what the 25-cent movies had to do with replacing a light bulb remains a mystery to me.

So there you have it. No single tree mishap to share with you this year, but a smorgasbord of tales from Christmases past.

Maybe this is the year to string up outdoor lights. And some day when I’m in my 60s or 70s I’ll recall the days when I used to go to the movies for seven bucks.

John J. Hopkins is the managing editor of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His column appears on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com.

John J. Hopkins is the managing editor of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His column appears on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com.