Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve 2015

Charlie Scheips and Tom Graf's Christmas tree 2015 in their apartment.
Thursday, Christmas Eve 2015. It is raining in New York as I write this at 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening. It was expected all day but never got started until very late in the afternoon, after a foggy invasion settling over the city. The temperature at this hour is 61 degrees. This is said to be the warmest Christmas on record in the northeast.
View from the terrace at 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon with a light rain and heavy fog. The same view at 9:30 p.m. after three hours of rain intermittently heavy.
By now, the day before Christmas Eve, a lot of the activity is about preparing for it, especially including leaving the city for the long weekend at relatives, or in the country, or with friends and/or family taking the next week off. It’s a moment that is all over America right now.

My friend and neighbor Charlie Scheips who occasionally writes the Art Set column for NYSD, goes all out on the holiday with the tree, the extraneous festive decorations, as well as the Christmas dinner which he prepares entirely himself from the basic ingredients. The menu is well on the way to haute cuisine but with the basics. I think he once told me that in his adult lifetime he’s tried every recipe in the “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Julia Child was his goddess. So even the desserts are made from scratch in his kitchen.

His attention to detail as well as a highly developed aesthetic for art, also results in a quintessential Christmas tree. Charlie has mementos and objects from his entire life from childhood on. His mother and father were evidently into it also because the kid even has his late father’s toddler shoes -- from the early 1930s under the three, sitting at the base next to Charlie’s childhood electric train (“New York Central Railroad” is spelled out on the sides of the cars) on tracks surrounding the tree. 
Besides the lights and the Christmas bulbs there are copious items hanging from the branches, some of which date back to his early childhood. There’s a little rubber Spaniel type dog that was under the tree when Charlie was a toddler. There’s a “ruby slipper,” a gold star within a star which his mother had bought for the tree and named after each of her four sons. There’s a bird sitting on a wooden barrel that was a gift to Charlie’s partner Tom Graf from his mother. There are teddy bears and knitted stockings and a PeeWee Herman doll and Kermit the frog. Some of the little faces were made long ago in Germany and some are even rare now. There are porcelain dolls and objets, and even a little cookie (the face of Santa) that was made by Charlie’s youngest brother Derek when he was in grade school forty years ago, and even a delicate, tiny white crocheted angel.
As I said, Charlie doesn’t stop at the tree. On top of the black armoire next to the tree there is a line of six birds, of different colors and breeds, and as you pass them the air that moves by you causes them to chirp in their individual tones. It’s quite amazing.  I could have spent hours photographing because there were so many details to this oeuvre called Charlie’s Christmas Tree. A curator, archivist, art advisor, author, art historian, this week and next, Charlie's tree’s the thing reflecting all those hats that he wears.
The chirping toy birds perched atop Charlie's armoire.
At the foot of the tree is a little toy dog that is now more than a half century old, that was under the family tree when Charlie was a kid.
Charlie in his father's arms holding that same little dog, about 50 years ago. That's his brother Teddy on the right looking at his little stuffed dog which may be in the collection above, although I didn't notice it. The birthday of Charlie's father, after whom he was named, is Christmas Eve. Charles Scheips Sr. died in September 2012, in his 86th year. He would have been 89 today.
These two wooden soldiers, aka Nutcrackers, were party favors at a Christmas dinner the late Judy Green gave at Christmas 2000, placed at each table setting ...
Even the sculpture got into the holiday act.
Merry Merry to all, and to all a Good Night!

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