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Crap Tree, 2017 December 10, 2017

Posted by geoff in News.

[Note by Michael (2013): 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. lauraw - December 10, 2017

Now it’s The Season.

One of these days we need to get a pic of The Nice Tree.

2. BrewFan - December 10, 2017

*holds mistle toe over lauraw’s head*
*plants a big wet kiss on her cheek*

3. Sobek - December 10, 2017

Hooray for delurking Brewfan!!!

4. Retired Geezer - December 10, 2017

Wow! I missed BrewFan’s big-head appearance.

5. Cathy - December 11, 2017

Big Christmas Hugs and Sloppy Reindeer Kisses all ’round.

6. geoff - December 11, 2017

Now it’s The Season.

Yeah, sorry it was late this year.

7. Brother Cavil - December 11, 2017

Nice tree…

8. kathysaysso - December 11, 2017

Crap trees show a person’s character – soulless display trees hide a person’s character. Just sayin’.

9. backwardsboy - December 12, 2017

Luv the Godzilla ornament. Or is that a freeze-dried real baby Godzilla?

10. geoff - December 12, 2017

There’ll be a Godzilla ornament post coming soon . . . whenever my 2005 and 2017 ornaments arrive. Then I’ll have all 13. Plus King Ghirorah.

11. Mrs. Peel - December 13, 2017

I am also a white lights person and definitely prefer the cohesive look of matching ornaments (OCPD FTW). We have two trees, and the Crap Tree is where we have our family Christmas. Pics of the kids, Lieutenant Worf with a bat’leth next to Darth Vader with a lightsaber, countless cheesy A&M and ASU items, etc.

I’m glad we have both, because if I had to pick one, it’d be the Nice Tree (again, OCPD. Did you know it’s mostly men who have it? Interesting bc OCD is mostly women, and the two conditions are often comorbid, as in my case), but I would miss the Crap Tree.

12. Steve in Tucson - December 13, 2017

Unfortunately, my wife is the white lights type, going so far as to buy a fake tree, something I am extremely opposed to, having always had real trees (the smell, the fact it’s real, etc. being among my reasons.)

She decorates it exactly like a picture she found online. It kills me. Why bother decorating a tree if it’s exactly like another one someone else ‘built’?

Our house is not big enough to enable a second / crap tree.

I did convince her to allow me to select one ornament per year that means Something to us to add to it, but it goes through a review process. The only one so far is a picture frame that says the year and is color-coordinated with our Department Store Deco Tree. My owls and snow-men and random schlock have disappeared. I’m not sure they’re even in storage; possibly actually thrown out.

But I love her, so this is one of those things I will have to live with; happy wife, happy home and all that. Ah well.

13. kallisto - December 13, 2017

The crap tree looks beautiful to me. “Civilians” usually don’t see the world the same way we artists do.

14. Mrs. Peel - December 14, 2017

It’s a POV thing, not an artist/uncultured yahoo thing. I remember once on the internet somewhere, someone showed two pictures of totally different home decors. One was a soothing, calming room in mostly white with no clutter, while the other was a riot of mismatched colors and crap scattered everywhere that made me anxious just looking at it (much like my own house does every day thanks to two little boys). The poster described the beautiful, calm room as cold and sterile (I would have changed the color scheme myself, but other than that, it was great) and the messy, anxiety-laden room as welcoming. We all have different perspectives.

Cathy - December 14, 2017

When our kids were little we had hand painted wooden ornaments on the tree that were kinda ‘folksy’ but the kids loved them and they weren’t breakable — so they were perfect. When my kids were in middle school, they wanted something nicer. I think they were embarrassed when their friends dropped in. So we invested in an entirely new concept — the decor tree. Andrew went with me to select the ornaments — to make sure I did this right.

We had a theme of sorts: “Angels We Have Heard on High.” I bought tons of beautiful fabric ribbon with wire in it and made the bows. The ribbon was printed with musical scales and notes on it. We selected angel ornaments in different styles. We also selected brass and gold musical instruments. We filled in with other things, but kept the overall look and colors simple. I still have all those decorations and really enjoy them. But this year I’m taking a break — no big tree — just three pre-lighted pre-decorated ones we only need to plug in. But

15. Retired Geezer - December 14, 2017

I thought Flotus Christmas decorations were far superior to the previous years.

In the past, we have usually bought living Pine trees and planted them after Christmas. Most of them are between 15′ and 20′ tall now.
Camp Geezer (t) didn’t have any trees when we moved in. Eighteen years later we have a plethora.

16. geoff - December 14, 2017

A plethora?

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