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The Crap Tree November 29, 2013

Posted by daveintexas in 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. Dave’s story has become a classic tale of Christmas cheer and the endurance of traditions. This is the original version, which actually predates the founding of Innocent Bystanders in 2006. 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.

Hey guess where this is?

A gift from the Geoffs. Proudly displayed.



1. digitalbrownshirt - November 27, 2012

Classic reading.

2. digitalbrownshirt - November 27, 2012

We’ve got the string of lights that look like the “leg lamp” from A Christmas Story.

3. geoff - November 27, 2012

Must be officially Christmas season.

Fortunately I’ve already got this year’s Godzilla ornament.

4. daveintexas - November 27, 2012

dang, I need to order that!

5. unclefacts - November 27, 2012

never gets old.

6. skinbad - November 27, 2012

This story makes my small heart grow three sizes.

7. xbradtc - November 27, 2012

Well, I guess I have to break out our tree tomorrow… it’s officially the Christmas season now.

8. BrewFan - November 27, 2012

God bless us, every one!

9. xbradtc - November 27, 2012

Reblogged this on Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid and commented:
It’s officially the Christmas season. The Crap Tree is here!

10. Michael - November 27, 2012

I put up a tree today. Lights and ornaments tomorrow.

11. Tushar - November 27, 2012

NOW it feels like Christmas is around the corner.

12. Retired Geezer - November 28, 2012

Hey, you hanging the IB ornaments I sent ya?

Skinbad’s broken fork?

13. daveintexas - November 28, 2012

Just like always

Michael - November 28, 2012

Yes to the IB ornaments if I can find where Cathy stored them.

14. wiserbud - November 28, 2012

And so begins the holiday season.

15. lauraw - November 28, 2012

*heaves heavy sigh*

Guess this means I have to decorate, now.

*hangs one Texas-themed Christmas ornament on mantel*


16. daveintexas - November 28, 2012


17. Rory - November 28, 2012

Every year we shop at Walmart or Target the day after Christmas and buy the ugliest ornament we can find and we store it for a year until we go to a party that plays “Dirty Santa”… oddly enough there is almost always one person that really wants our hideous ornament that will match a tree they put up. I didn’t realize that person was Michael.

18. Infidel - November 28, 2012

Classic Christmas story. My heart always grows bigger when I start decorating. My 40 tree in the front yard should have all the colored lights on it when I get home. Yea.

19. MJ - November 28, 2012

Well, this all makes perfect sense.

20. Darren - November 28, 2012

You should be happy you get a whole tree. The rule is that when you get married, it’s her house and you get to live there. Women want the house to look like men don’t live there when other women come over. The best compliment a woman can give another woman about her house is “When did your husband pass away?”

Smart women understand that a man needs a cave, and will allow you to have a room. The room has to have a door that is closed so other women can come over.

Even though English lacks the male and female connotators of other languages like Spanish, there are still male and female things in the house, and the male things cannot show. Male things are televisions, stereo equipment and things made out of unlacquered non-precious metals. These have to be hidden behind things that are apparently female, like wood and glass. This is why when you’re shopping for a TV and are assessing screen size, resolution, brightness and connection options, she is considering the size of the piece of furniture needed to hide it when women come to your house. Assume that any purchase of entertainment equipment will also include to cabinet to hide said entertainment equipment unless it goes into your room. Behind the door.

Beware of garage sales. When you get married it’s half your stuff and half hers, after the first garage sale it’s 90% hers and 10% yours. If you’re wondering where the Nolan Ryan poster or Nagel print from your dorm room in college is hidden, the answer is that it is gone. In a garage sale. Eventually men figure this out, which is why the first people at garage sales are all older men. You think they’re there for the tools, what they’re really looking for is the 1978 Farrah Fawcett poster they lost in a garage sale years ago.

Be thankful you have a tree. 🙂

21. ChrisP - November 28, 2012

Yes! The Crap Tree is here!

22. MrCaniac - November 28, 2012

My God, you married MrsCaniac. She does the same thing to me, and has now made me put up a “your” tree.

23. osoloco11 - November 28, 2012

Christmas time is here…

24. Max Power - November 28, 2012

Totally heartwarming. I heard it in the “Ralphy” voice from Christmas Story when read it.

25. Jon in TX - November 29, 2012

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Dave in TX and I were, if not the same guy, stuck in the same movie. We have two trees, one my wife decorates with her fancy-schmancy ornaments and our “crap tree”, which has all the family ornaments and mementos on it. I ditched the white lights this year for all colored lights, but I have to admit, I don’t have some of the cool stuff like chili pepper lights or guitar ornaments. Still, I totally relate to this story because it’s my story too. Thanks for sharing.

26. skinbad - November 29, 2012

“daveintexas” “Jon in TX”

Disturbing trend alert . . .

27. daveintexas - November 29, 2012

More people moved to DFW, Houston, Austin and San Antonio last year than anywhere else.

When I’m done I’ll put up another post with updated pics. We have shotgun shell lights, new ornaments.

28. Jon in TX - November 29, 2012

Moved to DFW 15 1/2 years ago from OH. Miss OH except in the winter.

29. Michael - November 29, 2012

Jon, winter in Ohio lasts from November through April. Spring and fall are very brief, maybe a month, and usually grey and cloudy, like winter. I lived there for 8 years. Ohio spends a lot of time on the wrong side of the jet stream, with no moderating ocean effect.

Now I live in DFW, like you. Don’t miss Ohio at all.

30. Linlithgow - November 30, 2012

I was a purple light gal until I met my husband, who made me a large coloured bulb gal. We have my angel and its half my ornaments, with a bunch we bought together. He was born Christmas Day, I was born Christmas Eve, so maybe that’s why we can coexist.

Wish Christmas was a bit more of when I was a kid; the commercialism that starts before T-day with the shitty made in China stuff (anyone remember the small bubble lights with the mini bases? They were awesome!) and painted Santa faces that make him look like he’s passing a gall stone really depress me.

31. Big Boob Friday « The H2: Talking Programming Smack since March 2009 - December 7, 2012

[…] errrrvryone.  Welcome to the official start of the weekend! If you haven’t put up your tree, lights, garland, stockings, or decorated the washer and dryer that reside in your front yard, YOU […]

32. daveintexas - November 30, 2013

It. Is. Time.

33. Retired Geezer - November 30, 2013

Yay, Dave.
Wonderful post to get us all in the holiday spirit.

When Flyin’ Brian gets back from the Philippines, he will discover that his wife has decorated a Nice Tree (with white lights) for the Living Room.
She bought him a Crap Tree that lives in the kitchen. It has colored lights on it.
I like it.

34. Retired Geezer - November 30, 2013

We just laughed at #20 Darren’s comment.

How about an update about any new ornaments.

35. daveintexas - November 30, 2013

I have the updates a comin

36. ChrisP - November 30, 2013

The Crap Tree!
NOW it’s Christmas season…

37. lauraw - November 30, 2013

Without the work-overload of a family retail store killing our spirit, there is a chance this season will be enjoyable.

38. daveintexas - December 1, 2013


39. lauraw - December 2, 2013

Those big-bulb strings of lights are back in a big way. Selling tons of them at my Obamajob.

40. daveintexas - December 2, 2013

No shit?

I used to SO burn my fingers on those things.

41. Lipstick - December 2, 2013

It’s not Christmas without Olive, The Other Reindeer.

42. daveintexas - December 2, 2013

She is still with us.

43. The Crap Tree | Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid - December 2, 2013

[…] via The Crap Tree | Innocent Bystanders. […]

44. MJ - December 3, 2013


I love this post.

45. Tushar - December 3, 2013

Crap tree!

Reading every word of the crap tree story every year has become a Christmas tradition for me.

46. Sohos - December 8, 2013

Awwww ready for Christmas now!

47. daveintexas - December 8, 2013

me too!!

48. Dave at Garfield Ridge - December 8, 2013

No crap tree for me– I won that argument YEARS ago.

Colored lights, hokey ornaments, and ratty CVS garland… it’s Christmas, dammit!

49. geoff - December 8, 2013

Our tree’s up, with all 8 Godzilla ornaments present and accounted for. Still need to get the 2005 Godzilla ornament, though.

50. Michael - December 9, 2013
51. Michael - December 9, 2013

If you don’t want to bid, just plunk down $107 for this one:


I mean, you want the complete collection, don’t you?

52. Slapweasel - December 9, 2013

“It’s Santa!” …made me laugh!!
Merry Christmas!

53. Mark in NJ - December 10, 2013

Godzilla ’05 looks like he just had 20 shots of Yukon Jack on an empty stomach

54. daveintexas - December 10, 2013

Next year, this!

55. The Crap Tree 2014 | Innocent Bystanders | Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid - December 12, 2014

[…] Here’s a repost of the original Crap Tree. […]

56. The Crap Tree 2014 | Innocent Bystanders - December 12, 2014

[…] This was a post from Michael about the Crap Tree. There are others but this is the story. (thanks LauraW for the reminder!) […]

57. The RFH Crap Tree is up! | Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid - November 29, 2015

[…] is a tradition here of reading Dave in Texas’s classic Crap Tree post or usually the Innocent Bystanders re-post. (Miss you, Michael.) The house renovations that were supposed to be done before Thanksgiving are […]

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