Niagara Gazette

November 30, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: O Christmas tree -- is back again

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Decorators — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Last Christmas. Sorry about invoking back-to-back song titles, but we’re using 2012’s tree. Real, not artificial. Indoors. And thereby hangs a tale, along with a few ornaments …

We’ve wonderful memories of Christmas Trees past, including two that toppled over before their time. Now, our holiday décor could best be described as small but sincere. Most of the keepsake decorations, the clay handprints from elementary school, the fragile spheres of another century, have either died in combat or passed down the family tree, so to speak. We don’t need a redwood.

Last year, Tops was selling a squat but sprightly sprig about 3 ½ feet high, complete with ornaments, in a crimson-gilded pot. Cost a little more than $20. When they offered extra gas points (Doug’s a discount petroholic), Doug grabbed one. Didn’t even read the label.

We came to identify it as a Norfolk Island Pine. When perched on the three-tier table in front of the living-room window it looked six feet tall from outside, and all bushy besides. We supplemented the pre-supplied ornaments, wreathed it with a single string of lights and by the time we got done, it looked like a $75 tree with no needles falling and minimal takedown hassle.

Jack Benny, the legendary cheapskate comedian, would have been proud. Larry David, too.

As we proposed to dispose in January, Doug stumbled across suggestions for granting the little glitterer eternal life. Turns out you can replant it, or keep it. The catch is, Norfolk Island evidently has far narrower climate than Grand Island. Temperatures below 40 or above 80 would threaten this sturdy-looking shrub, and it needed sunshine, besides, but not constantly. This was one needy little tree.

We tabled it in the spare room, with a morning exposure, turning it every three days to distribute the rays. Still, a few branches surrendered until Polly came up with the brainstorm of watering it from the

Two weeks ago, out it came, complete with pie-plate irrigation system, to take its place of honor on the stand, star attached to the top with a garbage-bag tie. Passing neighbors have expressed resentful admiration that we’ve already found and put up our tree. It never left.

The Christmas Tree trade has declined since first we reached these shores. No more baby owls hooting us away from our choice at the fir farm on Edgewater, no more frozen attendants at the Krueger lot near the car wash. We miss ‘em, but we’ll not soon forget the $20 tree (less gas points) that lasted two years. Come visit. Bring tinsel. Just not much.

Polly and Doug E-mail pollyndoug@hotmail.com