Christopherson Column: Christmas miracles, one cute little fuse at a time
Perhaps the Christmas tree during this holiday season carries more meaning than it would in what one might call a more normal Christmastime. We’re all abundantly aware that “normal” got shoved with barbaric ferocity into the wood-chipper last March, and the year 2020 in the months since has only gotten ground more into pulp.
The history of the Christmas tree has everything to do with green, the color of life. People were drawn to trees like conifers that stayed green all year long, even in the darkest, coldest, bleakest winters. The hearty green tree was a reminder that soon the sun would be higher in the sky and provide greater warmth, and that other plant life would blossom and, perhaps most important, return to their green glory, too.
Given all that life-fulfilling lore, it feels a bit strange that every holiday season millions of beautiful conifers that have been meticulously pruned throughout their entire existence for the sole purpose of bringing humans joy at Christmas are cut down in order to be sold to people to enjoy for a few short weeks, and then, dry and dead, tossed to the curbside to be unceremoniously disposed of.
Hey, thanks for the memories!
But that depressing life-cycle doesn’t make me any less of a Christmas tree lover. Same goes for my wife. We always get a real, live tree. And when it’s been offered, we’ve always gone to the Rydell/Glacial Ridge Wildlife Refuge to cut down conifers weeks before Christmas. Non-native to the land on which they sit, the super-nice people at the refuges want them removed, so it all makes strange sense in a whole circle-of-life way.
Limited by an eight-foot ceiling in the living room, we have to compensate for our height challenges with tremendous girth. (I’ve pushed the envelope before, as the petrified remnants of conifer tree wax stuck to our ceiling would attest.) We’ve mounted trees that fill our entire picture window, and my devoted, determined wife, when we’ve been able to cut these wild, non-pruned trees, spends hours wrapping every single branch with white lights. This is serious dedication we’re talking about…like, red, irritated, scratched and even bloody hands when she’s all finished dedication. The total light tally is usually in the 2,000 range.
There was no Christmas tree cut event at the refuge this year, so we made the much less involved trek north on Highway 75 for a couple miles to chat with the Parnows and pick out one of their manicured trees. This year’s tree is so perfect it almost looks like an equilateral triangle. But it doesn’t fill the window; still, we managed to get more than 2,000 lights on this year’s lil’ conifer-that-could.
Christmas tree lights themselves are wonderful, inspiring little stories. Over the decades, Christmas tree light technology has improved by leaps and bounds, and yet a string of lights remains so dirt cheap, if you do a plug-in test before you uncoil a string you used previously and it doesn’t light up, you shrug your shoulders, toss it in the trash, and move onto the next string. If a bunch of strings funk out on you, it’s a quick trip to the store and a few minutes later you return maybe $20 lighter in the wallet with 1,500 more lights in hand.
Well, I should clarify, that’s not me, exactly. I’m a Christmas tree light whisperer. A real zen-master.
My wife, puffy, throbbing red fingers and all, tosses aside a dead string, and I spring into action. But long gone are the days of screaming to the heartless Christmas tree light gods, when one blown light would deaden an entire string. The extra lights provided with today’s strings are only if you want your strings to blink or chase.
The fuses, two adorable little things tucked into their tiny green plastic beds inside the male-ended plug-in, are my specialty. When a string won’t light and my wife coldly tosses it aside with alarming ambivalence, I grab a steak knife, peel the little protective cover off the fuses – it’s like opening a microscopic garage door – and gently pop them out with the knife blade, one at a time. Then I hold each one up to a light on our overhead range vent, and without fail, the little plastic tube on one of the fuses protecting its intricate infrastructure is just a bit cloudy and opaque, and not entirely clear, as it should be.
It’s blown. I say a few kind words – quietly and to myself of course; I don’t want my wife to think I’m nuts – before gently placing the tiny tube that sacrificed so much in the trash receptacle in the pantry closet. I introduce the replacement fuse to his/her mate who’s still going strong, put them back to bed, and then it’s moment-of-truth time.
I plug the string in, and it lights up, brilliantly reborn and with renewed purpose.
Christmas magic? A Festivus miracle? It’s probably a little of both, just as it should be, especially this twisted holiday season.