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The Crap Tree UPDATED November 30, 2009

Posted by daveintexas in Family, Personal Experiences.

[Note by Michael:  It has become a tradition at Innocent Bystanders to annually republish the first-ever blog post by Dave in Texas during the Christmas season.  It has become a classic.  This is the original version, which actually predates the founding of Innocent Bystanders.  Except I have greatly improved it by centering the pictures.]

Several years ago my wife conceived a plan to take over Christmas decorations in our home. She’s been very patient, moving so carefully that I only realized the scope of her plan this year. This fight isn’t over, not by a long shot. But I’ve lost a lot of ground.

I am what you would call a ‘Christmas kind of guy’. I love Christmas. I love the lights and the pretty packages, the wreaths, the greenery hanging everywhere. I like Christmas plates and coffee cups. Christmas cookies, Christmas music, Christmas towels in the bathrooms, Christmas napkins, Christmas movies and books, if they had Christmas toilet paper I would buy two cases (does anybody know if they make that?). I think Christmas lights on pickup trucks look terrific.


I really dig Christmas.

As soon as the clutter is cleaned away from the Thanksgiving feast, I’m up in the attic getting boxes down. I know where every one of them is, and I pretty much know what’s inside of them. Not because I pack them up every January (that always makes me sad). I suppose it’s just that we tend to use the same boxes for things. You could sum up my taste in Christmas decorations in one phrase. Colored lights. Yes, like the late Michael Kelly wrote on the topic of Christmas lights, there are white light people, and colored light people. I’m in the second group. Years ago I conceded the inevitability of teeny lights taking over. I gave up trying to find strings of lights with those big painted bulbs that burned your fingers. I miss them, but I understand. Technology changes things. But even if they’re teeny, I have to have colored lights. This theme extends to other decorations.


I have an affinity for Christmas-schlock. The cheesier the better. A dancing Santa Claus with an electric guitar and sunglasses? Oh yes. Strings of lights that look like jalapenos? Lovely. Elves laid out in a winter North Pole Office Party display, holding little cans of Bud Light while singing drunken Christmas tunes? I am so there. And you have guessed the dark secret of Christmas in our home. My wife is not a colored lights kind of person. She is a white lights gal. I don’t blame her, taste is subjective, right? Eye of the beholder and all that. We can coexist. We can cooperate, compromise, a little give here, a little take there. We’ll find a way to get along. You know, the Russkies and the Americans. Detente baby.


limited edition strat and twin reverb amp ornament

Well, I was wrong so I didn’t see it coming. It started with a new Christmas tree. She brought it home a few years ago. It’s bigger than our old tree. 10 feet. It’s frickin ginormous! Me, I’m all excited. What could be better than one Christmas tree? Two trees! Oh yeah, two sets of lights and ornaments and glitter, extra room for more presents. This will be so cool! I set the new tree up first. In the formal dining room, right there in the front window where everyone can see it. We decided the older tree would be just fine in the family room, we moved some things around and set it up there. Looked just fine. I didn’t even notice when my wife pulled the strings of white lights out that something was amiss. ‘Sure’, I thought, ‘woo… fan-cee’. What the heck. White lights on the new tree.

Then I noticed we had packages (really nice packages, you know, the kind of shopping bags you keep cause they’re so pretty?) with more ornaments in them. Impressive looking ornaments too, glass and crystal and gold. Wow. But hey, 10 foot tree, sure, we’ll need more stuff to put on it. It was when I reached into a box to pull out my favorite lights, the string of little Fender Telecasters, and headed for the new tree, that the plan in its entirety was revealed to me. She said ‘STOP right there!’ evenly spacing her words using a tone of voice that said I should seriously consider stopping right there. ‘There will be none of that on this tree’, she said. Same tone. I said what most husbands say when they are confronted with possible wrongdoing. ‘Wh-a-a-at?’ Real slowly, dumb-like. ‘No guitar lights. No old pictures. No jalapenos’ she said.


And she was deadly serious.  She looked right at me and announced ‘this is the ‘nice tree’’.

The Nice Tree™. In the front room, prominently displayed in the big window. I looked around. The other decorations in the room began to make sense to me. The special Christmas china was set on the formal table. The expensive candle holders on the table by the entry, with long tapered white candles in them, you know, the kind you can’t get at Wal-Mart (10 for .55 cents). And then I understood. This room, was going to be ‘pretty’. Like a Christmas display at some expensive store on 5th Avenue, the ones whose names I can’t pronounce correctly. I looked at what was now my tree. Guitar lights. Ornaments from Fender. The decorations my kids made in Sunday school with funny shaped noodles and gold spray paint. Popsicle sticks and yarn and pictures. Hidden in the family room where no eye shall be offended. No one can see it.

I began calling my tree the “Crap Tree”.

The Nice Tree has gold swirly things on it, and a special tree skirt thingy made of silk and shiny stuff. It’s really pretty. It looks like something you would find in one of those stores in Salado. The Crap Tree has an old skirt made of something that looks like shag carpet. It has a pattern that sort of resembles a Christmas tree, at least, the way a Christmas tree looks to a myopic drunk. In a moment of weakness my brother in law crocheted it for us. It’s been more than 15 years and I still kick his ass about that.


easy to spot boxes

I am not allowed to put my special guitar ornaments on the Nice Tree. Who am I kidding? I’m not allowed to put anything on the Nice Tree. Every now and then, I sneak one on it when no one is looking. It doesn’t matter. My oldest daughter finds it and moves it back. At lease I’m not completely alone in my fight, my youngest daughter will take one of my ornaments and sneak it back on the nice tree. Occasionally sibling rivalry will overcome their natural tendency to gang up on you because of gender affiliation.  Which is nice.

The Crap Tree has lights on it from The Hard Rock Café. I think those are my favorite, although the lights that look like jalapenos are a close second. Ever since my wife debuted the Nice Tree, Christmas in our house has been looking a little different. The living room is starting to spread out. Our old Frosty the Snowman and Christmas tree hand towels we used to put in the guest bathroom have been replaced with much prettier hand towels. None of us is allowed to touch them. You wash your hands in this bathroom, you better wipe them off on your blue jeans. My ‘singing Santa’ with the electric guitar and the sunglasses is now back in my bedroom on the dresser. The battery has been removed.

This year I couldn’t find the Drunken Office Party Elves. My wife says she has no idea what happened to them. She says it in a way that makes me think she knows exactly what happened to them, and I will never see them again.


Olive, the other reindeer

So I know what I’m up against. Soon, next year, or maybe the one after that, I will find myself engaged in a desperate battle, a last stand in front of my dearest Christmas decoration, the Crap Tree.

She may relent. The Crap Tree has ornaments that have all our Christmas memories on it, 22 years worth. Decorations we bought when we spent our first Christmas together. Things our friends gave to us. Decorations that her students gave to her. Special ornaments with years on them from Christmases past that go back before our kids were born. Pictures of the girls when they were little in red and white Christmas dresses, hugging Santa and telling him how good they had been this year. So long ago, before cars and boys and college. Every now and then I find a little bit of attic insulation in one of the branches, from a Christmas years ago when I slipped in the overhead and put my foot through the ceiling, right over the tree. The youngest looked up and said ‘Mommy, it’s Santa’! I think she was 4.

I love the Crap Tree. It is an old friend. It’s the decoration in our house that says “Christmas” to me, and I hope it always will.


NEW PICS BELOW (not centered)

From Geoff.  This is soooooooo awesome.


1. Retired Geezer - November 30, 2009


The Crap Tree story is as much a part of our Christmas ritual at Camp Geezer as: “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the Jim Carey ‘Grinch’ and cat juggling.

2. geoff - November 30, 2009

Great to see this again. It must officially be the Christmas season.

3. kevlarchick - November 30, 2009

There’s my girl Olive! Missed her.

4. Dave in Texas - November 30, 2009

It’s officially up, lights are on it. Ornaments tonight.

5. Joan of Argghh! - November 30, 2009

Only a Crap Tree at the Argghh! house. Nothing less will do.

6. Tushar - November 30, 2009

This is what, 5th year I am reading this story. I always read is fully, and it never gets old. Thanks Dave.

I am wondering if I should get a Chrismas tree this year. Yes, a Chrismas tree, not a ‘holiday tree’. The kids would love it.

7. GEOFF PLEASE READ THIS - November 30, 2009

First, The crap tree was a nice post. It is strange what can come to symbolize the season for each of us. For me it is a palm tree full of ornaments.

Second, Geoff, I have been going crazy trying to find a t-shirt with your unemployment chart on it. I do not want to rip off your work to make my own. Please could you put your graph on some things at cafe’ press or something.

Sorry to resort to throwing a plea into comments here but I could not locate a contact link.

8. geoff - November 30, 2009

I’ll see what I can do, but I’m afraid it won’t be very fast.

9. Cathy - November 30, 2009

I love this Crap Tree post! Thanks.

I think Michael wants a crap tree too…


10. GEOFF PLEASE READ THIS - November 30, 2009

Thanks Geoff. I will look back to this replies column for further guidance. Considering the number of times I have seen your graph reposted on other sites, it seems to have garnered quite a bit of interest. If you create some product, you can no doubt put a few bucks in your pocket. Please be so kind as to post a reply here letting me know if and when and where I can buy that t-shirt!

11. MostlyRight - November 30, 2009

I have a whole 300 sq. ft. of crap room/home office/man cave/piece of heaven. The rest of the house I’m only allowed to pass through, with permission to use the functional parts if I’m good.

12. Mrs. Peel - November 30, 2009

geoff, you could ask Sweasel to do it. She already has a Zazzle store and is used to purtyin’ up engineers’ work…

13. Vmaximus - November 30, 2009

Chipolte pepper lights
I want.

14. sohos - November 30, 2009

Ah this makes me nostalgic it is from this post that I was introduced to the hostages. Patty Ann found my better half from a comment he made on the crap tree post and the rest as they say is history. I love the updates. Dave I am now in the Christmas spirit!

15. Dave in Texas - November 30, 2009

me too. it’s official now.

16. Vmaximus - December 1, 2009

However everyone knows that Dave will eventually be fighting to put up the crap tree in the garage or the workshop.

Once you give a inch, it is over.

17. compos mentis - December 1, 2009

Reading Dave’s account of his struggles to overcome Crap Tree prejudice in his home is as dear to my heart at this time of year as is twenty-four hours of A Christmas Story on TNT.

Dave = Ralphie.

18. doc - December 1, 2009

Glad to hear the crap tree hasn’t been relegated to the basement or garage (yet). Keep fighting the good fight.

19. MostlyRight - December 1, 2009

No, Dave does not = Ralphie. Dave = Ralphie’s dad.

20. PattyAnn - December 1, 2009

Hahaha. Ralphie’s Dad is how we got Count and Sohos. Count commented and then had leg lamp lights on his blog.
So we once again come full circle.

Add me to the group who get all Christmassy when the Crap Tree post goes up.

21. sandy burger - December 1, 2009

November 30th was one day early for this post. Christmas season doesn’t start until December. Now I feel OK commenting here.

For some, Christmas is about religion, or giving and receiving presents, or about family, or charity, or just spreading a little joy.

But for others, it’s about Crap Trees and taunting lauraw about shipping. Happy Noel, internet weirdos.

22. PattyAnn - December 1, 2009

Is that something in your pants, or are you just happy to see us again, Sandy?

23. sandy burger - December 1, 2009

Just getting into the spirit of the season, PattyAnn.

Must be something in my eggnog.

24. PattyAnn - December 1, 2009

Sandy, Merry Christmas. I was just being flippant, as you know.

25. Fred Fenster - December 1, 2009

I was just being flippant

She’ll flip ya. Flip ya for real.

26. Michael - December 1, 2009

Christmas season doesn’t start until December.

Eh. I say it starts on the Monday after the shopping binge of Black Friday, when Advent is officially in progress. This post (without the update, Dave will have to supply that), is already queued up to reappear on November 29, 2010.

27. Enas Yorl - December 1, 2009

I like the Crap Tree story too. For the record, I’m a blue & white light guy. Still very classy, but you get some color too.

Hey, I think it’s time for some Christmas Music! <-Clicky. I love the old classics like that one.

28. Enas Yorl - December 1, 2009

Aw. Spambucket ate my comment! A little help please?

29. JackStraw - December 1, 2009

First time Crap Tree story guy.

Almost as touching as that kid who stuck his tongue on the flag pole.


30. nicedeb - December 1, 2009

Lol. We’re putting our tree(s) up this weekend, but I started decorating for Christmas on black Friday.

31. Michael - December 2, 2009

By the way, Dave, we’re expected to get freezing weather by Friday.

Meaning, our nanner trees gotta come down.

32. Retired Geezer - December 2, 2009

our nanner trees gotta come down.

I’m unclear on this concept. Come Down?
What does that mean… put them in the Garage?
Your trees must be a lot smaller than Dave’s.

33. Dave in Texas - December 2, 2009

Oh, yeah, good point Michael, thanks. I’ll hack em down.

34. Moe Lane » Quote of the Day, Cr*p Tree edition. - December 2, 2009

[…] Innocent Bystanders, on the war between what they call the ‘white lights’ Christmas people and the […]

35. Michael - December 2, 2009

RG, you have to cut down nanners at ground level before the first freeze. Otherwise, they don’t come back next spring.

36. Lipstick - December 2, 2009

I think Michael just wants Dave to cut down his trees so they won’t compete. . .

37. Retired Geezer - December 2, 2009

Thanks, Lipstick.

*mentally files it as Banana Envy.*

38. kevlarchick - December 2, 2009

How is it that the big D gets snow before Ohio? Must be a sign of the apocalypse.

39. Dave in Texas - December 2, 2009

Hacked em down to the ground.

40. Lipstick - December 2, 2009


41. Dave in Texas - December 2, 2009

I could have withheld that important bit of information from Michael and gloated next year because his died. But I dint. Cause I don’t need to talk about my trees.

42. Dave's Trees - December 2, 2009


43. delayna - December 2, 2009

In my family, the “crap” tree was the one with Star Trek ornaments, McDonaldland Happy Meal Toys, and other non-religious-non-family ornaments. It started in the basement den, but now a few of the family heirloom ornaments are permitted to invade the “crap” tree, which migrated upstairs into the living room.

44. Michael - December 2, 2009

Dave, I give you all the credit for being the one person who thought to tell me, last year in my backyard, that I had to cut down those nanner trees before the first freeze or they would die.

Of course, I didn’t believe you. It’s counter-intuitive to hack those things down to ground level when they look so big and healthy. I suspected this was another Afterburner Chili recipe.

But, I googled and talked to a gardener, and it turns out you were telling the truth (for once).

So, thank you. You saved my nanner trees from Yankee ignorance.

45. Mrs. Peel - December 2, 2009

The banana trees will die if I don’t cut them?

At last, an easy solution to my gardening woes, that requires no actual work on my part!

Now, if only the Chinese holly would also die when ignored…

46. Michael - December 2, 2009

No luck, Mrs. Peel. You won’t get a hard freeze in Houston. Especially with all those tons of CO2 in the atmosphere causing global warming and killing polar bears (well, it’s really just a teensy tiny amount of CO2 that theoretically is grossly magnified by a water vapor feedback loop that can’t be found in the tropical ocean temperature data and, in any event, is moderated by the tropical cloud cover that keeps the planetary temperature relatively stable, oh, and let’s ignore the fact that the modern temperature readings have been boosted by the “urban island effect” which the AGW activists deliberately programmed out of the model, plus, the polar bear population is not at risk, but nevermind any of that).

47. Lipstick - December 3, 2009

Why should I move to Texas if it freezes there?

This country is too cold.

48. Mrs. Peel - December 3, 2009

*looks at cashmere sweater, scarf, and wool coat, laid out ready to wear*

WORD, Lipstick.

*makes plans to become fabulously wealthy and retire to a tropical island*

49. Dave in Texas - December 3, 2009

Because it only lasts for a day or so?

50. NancyB - February 6, 2010

I just came upon the hilarious Crap Tree post. It reminded me of the smoldering disagreement my parents had every year about Christmas tinsel. They were a devoted couple, very low key, generally never argued. (I grew up thinking married people didn’t fight, which was kind of a handicap when Henry and I tied the knot.) Anyway, my dad liked tinsel, lots of it, dripping from the branches. This was the old lead foil tinsel that they don’t sell any more. My mom didn’t want any. After he put it on she would sneak some of it off. One Christmas she eliminated all of it except for tufts hanging from the ends of the major branches, which she then bobbed off with a scissors to about 8 inches long. As a compromise it stunk.

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