Middle Aged Treehouse

I'm only mature in years.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holiday Tips

DON'T wear your favorite Joan and David shoes to a tree lot where flocking is taking place. (Turns out, flocking is some kind of toxic particulate matter blown out of a spray hose with something akin to SuperGlue. And they don't just apply it neatly to the branches. No, they create a big fake blizzard just to the side of the tree as it whirls on a motorized revolving base, and hope that some of the bogus snow finds itself on the boughs. Trippy!)

DON'T take your asthmatic son to a tree lot where flocking is taking place.

DON'T take your sulky, opinionated teenaged daughter — who's cranky that the weather is balmy — to a tree lot where flocking is taking place.

And finally, DON'T use the little replacement Christmas light bulb with the red tip unless you want your home to look like the flashing neon entrance to a Malaysian brothel. (An effect some folks prefer, I realize.)

_____________ N E W S F L A S H ! ________________

My first-ever flocked tree is standing proud in our living room, and it is fabulous!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Another Christmas Tree Story

Looking back at my childhood, there were signs that I might become a graphic design person.

As early as second grade, when my mother's sloppy handwriting offended my aesthetic, she was only too happy to let me hand-letter anything that needed to look presentable. We joke that I was the only third grader whose mother actually encouraged to sign their own report card.

Mom did another quietly encouraging thing to fan my creative fire. When I was in fourth grade, my pilot father (also a pretty good encourager) brought home a package of 100 sheets of origami paper from San Francisco.

The crane was my favorite origami pattern because it actully had moving parts; I loved making those wings flap. A few hours after tearing into the package of neat paper squares, I had 100 origami cranes of varying sizes and colors.

I begged Mom to forego the usual decorations that year and put nothing but my cranes on the tree. She was delighted to let me.

So in 1967, we had the only themed tree on Pleasant View Drive, and my first big "project" was a sucess.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The F Word

Anyone who knows me well understands that I have a lifelong obsession with Christmas trees.

When I was little in the 1960s, my family would drive around looking at holiday lights. I would see a huge aluminum silver tree change colors in a big bay window and murmur, "Ooooooh!" knowing that my parents would never, ever let us have something as flashy as one of those. While my mother quickly embraced the latest in artificial plastic trees (we had horrid allergies), she was fairly traditional in her decorating schemes.

A decade ago I stumbled upon a seven foot aluminum tree at a yard sale. My childhood fantasy would at last be realized! I decided to put it up in my kitchen next to my collection of aluminum kitchen ware. (A theme! Yes!)

Several seasons later, aluminum trees returned to retail stores in a kitschy comeback. No one can believe I snagged mine for a mere five bucks.

My kids love buying a real tree at Christmas. We've made a family tradtiion out of heading to the lot (sometimes several lots; now and then lots of lots) on the first chilly night after Thanksgiving (sometimes we have for up to a week after the turkey is gone; this is Texas, after all) and bickering for at least half an hour over which tree is perfect for our living room.

I own an indecent amount — hundreds — of Christmas decorations, so I like to get the biggest, fattest, fluffiest Noble or Fraser fir I can find, preferably with some kind of branch mutation. Treezilla. Our modestly sized house has an eight-foot ceiling, and it's really hard to determine how tall a tree really is when you're outside, so some years Dave has to lop off a foot or two just to get the thing inside. How many people go to a tree lot and have their children shriek, "MOM! NO! It's too BIG!" remembering some of the gumdrop-shaped monstrosities that have filled our living room.

The biggest problem with tree selection is that my parent's Good Taste gene obviously skipped me and went to both of my kids. Over the years they have learned to love the silver 1960s tree, but every year they talk me out of buying another childhood dream: a FLOCKED tree.

I've wanted one since 1964 and never had one. Maybe it's the lack of snow in Texas that makes the flocked tree so attractive. I only know that last year, when all four family members were negotiating over which of the tree finalists would be thrown on the top on my minivan, Kate said, and I quote:

"Okay, Mom. If you let us have this small and tasteful tree this year, next year we can finally get your stupid flocked one." (Isn't she charming? What a heartwarming glimpse into my family's holiday traditions.)

I caved in. Kate's tree choice was fine, just a bit dinkier than I would have liked.

Actually, it was the sorriest shrub we'd ever brought home and I've been fuming for a year.

So in just a few days, the fabulously fake FLOCKED fir will be mine.

Flock, yeah!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This Purse Weighs a Fortune

My mother has always inspired me with her sense of humor. And she has kept her family and friends amused for years, often without even knowing it. I have mentioned that she was the Queen of Malapropisms, enjoying "the Dog Worshipper" on television. Here are a few more examples of her gems:

"Hey, there are two of us. Let's use the HIV lane!"

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the oven."

"This purse weighs a fortune!"

"Don't kick a gift horse in the mouth."

Mom is a smart cookie, but she sometimes takes vocabulary fairly lightly. If a big word sounds right, it'll do for Mom, and we usually know what she means. Except for a few months ago when Mom was giving me a health update over the phone.

"I'm feeling great, honey, and doing fine," Mom chirped cheerfully."And next Wednesday, I'm getting a colostomy while I'm in town!"

"Mom, what?— A colostomy? Oh my god, that's, that's kind of major, don't you think?"

"Oh, no, honey, it's nothing. Really. I thought I'd go to the Galleria afterward."

"Mom, a colostomy is major surgery, involving an external bag — why are you having this done?"

"Oh, wait. I'm not having a colostomy. I'm having a colon, um, something else that starts with C."

We finally figured out the word she was searching for was colonoscopy.

You should hear some of the things she says to describe the breed of dog she'd like to own: a Bichon Frise.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Three Dog Night

Dave and Jack are camping with the Scouts this weekend. But it's been anything but dull for Kate and me. And I had not one, but three bed buddies with me last night.

Some dog owners keep their pets in the yard. Some dog owners let their pooches sleep in crates or little soft beds in their room. And then there is our family, whose canine family members take turns cuddling like spoons next to us on cold nights.

Actually, two of our trio of dogs seem to know their place. Sean Connery only occasionally dares to jump up on our bed. And little cold-natured Charlie's nightly ritual is to adhere himself to my shins, providing me my own soothing, soft furry hot water bottle of sorts.

But alpha bitch Allie, the queen of border collies, The Entitled One, does not believe for one second that she is merely a dog. She is obsessed with luxuriating in our beds. If I don't close our bedroom doors during the day, she will pull back the comforters with her teeth and unmake each bed, climbing underneath the covers and dozing, her silky black and whi†e head on the pillow.

People who love dogs don't think like rational people. It's hard to resist Allie's abundant charm. Last night was cold and lonely, so even Sean joined the party. My bed looked like a canine version of the Sound of Music where all the various sizes of von Trapp children run to Maria's room during a storm. I could have easily forgotten that snuggling Allie was even a dog were it not for being steamed awake by the heated puffing of what we call her "rotting corpse breath."

There is never any true sleeping in for me, as the matriarchal unit of this den and morning feeder. The dog gang is solar activated, so at precisely 6am, when the tiniest sliver of light starts to peek through the windows, the begging for breakfast begins.

Sean is the whining child of the bunch. He positions himself beside the alarm clock and starts whimpering softly, then progressively louder, like a snooze alarm. Allie is much less subtle, standing over my head and poking her front paw first on my shoulder and finally in my eye socket until I'm fully awake. She starts with a stage whisper woof, emitting just a little latrine breath from her puffy cheeks, and works toward a full fledged bark if I don't get moving.

But first, a trip outside. I am not a morning person, so this involves me trying not to be seen in the growing light, because I'm usually wearing either pajama top or bottom with one of David's army jackets, and whatever footwear happens to be lying nearest the back door, most often the heeled mules I wore to work the day before. Since I'm not fully awake, I don't care terribly much.

Then the feeding. This part kind of pisses me off. I can't even go back to bed while they all eat. I have to maintain a lifeguard's perch near little Charlie or the other two bullies will take his kibble and his lunch money. Then morning recreation, involving some more semi-supervised outside time.

If I'm dressed enough to go to the front yard to get the newspaper, my little pack of wolves will sometimes accompany me. I know, I know — something as smart as a Border Collie should be bright and hardworking enough to go fetch my paper. But a few years ago they mistook the phrase "paper" for "Squirrel in the tree!" and I don't know how to fix this. And it's so funny to watch them run hopefully to the tree when I say "paper."

Who's the boss here? I know it's not me. But the dogs and I have an arrangement.

"You need to watch "The Dog Worshipper," my mom tells me. "Then you could get them to do anything you wanted." Mom is the biggest malapropism user and television watcher I've ever known.

"Mom, I am the dog worshipper. I think you mean "whisperer."

I have to go now. Someone is telling me they need to go outside.