Columns

Column: Tanenbaum talk

Twenty years ago when we put down stakes on the Island, we decided that when our first Christmas rolled around, we would get a tree from the Shamrock tree farm on Route 25 in Mattituck.

On one of our many treks to the North Fork we had popped in to see what it was like and liked what we saw. Those of you who have performed this holiday rite know that it is an immensely pleasurable event.

Wandering through the stands of trees, picking out the perfect specimen, hailing the cutter and toting it back to the cashier seemed to be perfect Christmas moments. But the best part by far is getting the tree tied to the roof of the car and setting off for home. Some on-coming motorists would nod in appreciation of the tree crowning the Subaru, and we felt that we were the coolest car on the road. Even the taciturn ferrymen seemed to loosen up a little after we got loaded in.

Because our new home had a slight cathedral ceiling in the family room, it was the tallest tree we had ever purchased and it still hangs in the memory banks as the most impressive.

We repeated this maneuver for several years until we started accumulating grandkids and the main focus of holiday revelry slowly shifted to Astoria, Queens, where they were growing up. (Now the Christmas games have moved to Brooklyn.)

During this period we would also have a tree in our Manhattan apartment. On the Upper East Side, there comes a moment when trees show up on the street in vast numbers in a seemingly coordinated overnight inundation.

One Christmas when I was still working and living in Philadelphia, Jane went across the street and bought a tree from a bunch of Boy Scouts and their associated adults. To this day, she still fondly recalls two scouts, in their uniforms, delivering that tree and helping her set it up.

Once I made my move to Manhattan, we would go around the corner to Second Avenue where a bunch of Canadians from the Montreal region set up their tree stand stretching nearly a block. For several years running we would encounter Marie, a spunky gamine in a red and black-checked hoodie who took us on as her special customers. She would remember our names from year to year, and she would not allow us to pick out our tree — only she could do that. Marie hasn’t showed up for years now but I still hope someday she and her hoodie will reappear.

There are things in life that you are not proud of, but sometimes it’s healthy to talk about them openly: Last year on Second Avenue we paid $200 for our tree, an absurd amount that we meekly forked over.

Unbelievable. There, I’ve said it. Do I feel any better? Nope. (Please don’t spread this around.)

This year, for reasons I can’t fathom, I suggested we get a small tree and put it on an end table in a corner of the living room. It usually holds various bric-a-brac, including my sacred silver-plated martini shaker in the shape of a penguin. No home is truly complete without one of these guys.

We made a reconnaissance run to Second Avenue to check out the small tree inventory, for we had never gone that route before. We immediately spotted the perfect 4-footer. Why we didn’t buy it then and there is mystifying, but it was in the same spot the next day, as if it were waiting for us to come back.

This small tree idea is one of the best I’ve had in years, maybe 10 years, given the run of so-so ideas I’ve been on.

We decided to use only silver ornaments and Jane did her usual masterful job. My only beef was the two ornaments that are shaped like shallots — but Jane was insistent on the shallots and didn’t budge.

We usually wire a large red ribbon around the spike at the tree’s top, but time had taken its toll on this adornment. Rustling around in the Christmas box, Jane found a Santa’s hat. Bingo. The hat hangs jauntily on the spike.

The tree is directly across the room from my club chair so I have spent major blocks of time gazing at it.

When the tree lights are off I have noticed, aided perhaps by the hat, that the ornaments form something approximating a human face, although it’s missing a nose. (These observations were pre-cocktails, just for the record.)

I’m not locking in, but I’d be willing to bet your life that the baby Christmas tree era is fully upon us.

Santa hat? Total no-brainer.