Holiday decorations help keep our favorite memories alive

#613 in a series of true experiences in real estate
December 2010, Hills Newspapers

In my life before kids, quite awhile ago now, a group of us got together each year for a Christmas extravaganza. Five friends celebrated together, plus, sometimes, a boyfriend, and regularly, one friend’s parents who drove up from LA to be included.

We held our event on Christmas Eve Day at our friend’s house on 63rd Street in North Oakland. The house could not have been more perfect for Christmas, a shingled bungalow with a deep, wooden-floored porch along the side and a big, wide wooden front door with windows at the top and a brass knocker.

We all dressed up fancy. We brought gifts for everyone and food and decorations. For weeks we’d been telephoning each other to ask what everyone wanted for Christmas. Main gift lists were checked and rechecked and we also brought smaller items for filling stockings.

Everyone had a task. The parents brought a 2-pound box of See’s candies, assorted dark chocolates. That was their job. One friend waited in line each year at Berkeley Bowl for a fresh organic turkey. Another friend was in charge of making sure there were mountains of potatoes peeled and cooked and mashed.

Appetizers were prepared and plated. Once, someone made real egg-white-stiff eggnog. The tree was decorated and brightly lighted. Everything was so pretty and smelled so good. The wood-paneled living room and dining room were good-sized but cozy. There was a fire in the living room fireplace and we sat in comfy seats and smiled and laughed with the wonder of each other, what we had done and were doing to maximally enjoy Christmas.

My job was decorating the dining room table, and every year I thought and thought about what to do, what new and fun decor I might provide. One year it was a snowy scene with a mountain in the middle and skiers skiing. I’d figured out how to make trees by squishing aluminum foil into tree shapes, then spraying them with snow in a can. The scene was lit with tea lights. It was nice, satisfying.

Another year I covered the table with almost eye-blinding silver-Mylar, candles and a gift-wrapping scene: toy stuffed bears, mother and youngster sitting at a small wooden table with tiny boxed presents, miniature rolls of gift wrap, ribbons. The table sat on a bright red, handmade braided rug. Very cute.

But the one I want to tell you about was the year of the Christmas tree lot, a decoration made up of many pieces which I have saved all these years and which, this season, my daughter Annie arranged for me on my fireplace mantel for Christmas. Seeing it again reminded me of all those long-ago Christmases with those friends and how much fun we had.

My doll-house size tree lot is surrounded by a metal fence with a string of little lights attached along the bottom edge. I used for the fence a 6 foot length of wire mesh from the hardware store, a material intended to cover rain gutters to keep debris out. It makes a recognizable fence which is easily bent into a semi-circle with an opening on one side for the entrance and parking area of the lot.

Several toy cars (one has a tree tied to the roof), a truck, lots of little play trees of different sizes and toy people are inside the fence. Tiny little wreaths with red ribbons hang on the fence, and signs, too, that say Fresh Green Trees and Direct From Grower. Some trees have snow, some not, and that’s OK, but mica snow flakes all over everywhere bind the scene together.

Annie arranged the pieces as she thought they’d be in a real tree lot, plugged in the cord for the fence lights and sat with me on the couch to appreciate the effect. I love Christmas.

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