Friday, December 22, 2017

Remembering the thrill

The view south along Park Avenue from behind the cluster of Christmas trees along the plaza of the Seagram Building. Photo: JH.
Friday, December 22, 2017.  Sunny and mild again, here in New York yesterday, on our way to Christmas Eve. The town is a lot quieter; you can tell many have either stayed at home or have left town or are about to leave for the long holiday weekend. The weather has been very un-holiday in the Northeast with temps in the 40s and reaching up to 50 with some rain in the forecast.

Of course I can still remember the thrill for the kid when it came time to get the tree and decorate it. My parents always waited until Christmas Eve to begin the process – buying the tree and then decorating it. All that waiting till last minute used to make the kid very nervous (what if we couldn’t find a good tree and what if ...!!!). That never happened, and by the time I was ten and eleven, the decorating with lights and Christmas bulbs were up to me, gladly. By the time I went to bed – probably late for me ( 9:30-10:00) – the tree was heavenly.
This tree belongs to my friend Steve Millington and his family – wife, daughter and son --  which they put up earlier in the week.
On my way to bed, I’d stop and stand on the staircase looking into the living room, squinting to blend all the colors and lights into a beautiful glow. Later, after I was asleep, my eldest sister Helen who was already married and with little children (my nephews and niece), would come down from her house and spread the colorfully wrapped presents under the tree waiting to be opened in the morning.

I haven’t had a tree since my days in California, now 25 years ago. At that time there was a big — 10 or 12-foot, fully decorated tree set up in the living room in the house on North Doheny Drive. There would be a buffet dinner on Christmas Eve, inviting all who were not with family and/or had no place to celebrate the day. There were usually 40 or 50 attending — a lovely time we were all lucky to share.
On the left is a Della Robbia Wreath, a gift I am fortunate to receive every year from friends Doug Cramer and Hugh Bush who purchase them from the Boys Republic in Chino Hills, California. Spectacular and all fresh pines, fruit and pine cones.  And very good for the cause. On the right is Charlie and Tom’s wreath. Don’t know where they got it although it came from Essex, Connecticut.
Here in NewYork, my neighbors Charlie Scheips and Tom Graf always have a tree. And they pull out all the stops. We’ve run them on the NYSD in the past because they do an incredible job with the tree and holiday decorations. Charlie, who is an artist, as well as an art curator and author, comes from an intense tradition of tree décor and still has and uses objects that came from his childhood home. So I went over to their apartment last night to get a full view for everyone who enjoys this tradition.
Charlie and Tom’s tree.
The tradition of making decorations of children in the families of friends and relatives started at Charlie’s house when he was a child and he’s continued it with friends.
Children of friends.
No child, she; last year Charlie worked in Los Angeles creating archives of Elizabeth Taylor’s papers, letters, and personal photographs. The Santa  with the green cap is an admirer of the lady.
Charlie’s parents had these stars made and marked with his name along with one for each of his three brothers.
The electric train was part of the boys’ original décor, along with the cars and the felt rug surrounding the tree’s base. Next to the 1954 red Chevy Impala is a little model of Queen Elizabeth II.
More Santas, Santa’s helpers and the Star for the top.
Charlie’s watercolor of the chair next to the tree.
And his watercolor of the crèche of the Child in the Manger surrounded by the Wise Men.
The Manger.

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