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Slices of Life - Oh topiary, oh topiary

December 16, 2016
Jill Pertler - Columnist , Traer Star-Clipper

Each year at about this time I find myself face to face with an issue. It has to do with one aspect of the holidays. In two words - the tree. I can't get behind the idea of the tree and my lack of spirit makes me feel downright Grinchy.

I don't want to have a tiny, shrunken heart. I want to participate in the magic and miracles of the season. I want to drink eggnog. I want to be enthused about a tree in my living room. I really do. But I'm not.

Something must be wrong with me. I can see the magic of the season in other aspects. I love shopping for gifts. I love the Christmas story and holiday music. I love family get-togethers and the abundance of festive food and goodies that make the season bright. But I'm not feeling the need to hug a tree (metaphorically speaking).

Everyone around me is giddy with tree glee. They can't wait for the big tree buying day to get here. They have traditions about when and where to get the best tree. About decorating it while singing carols and eating homemade cookies. About who puts the star on top and who gets to be the first to plug in the lights. They all delight in the celebration of the tree. Their eyes sparkle as they absorb the beauty, radiance and brilliance.

And then there's me. I see pine needles dropping to the floor and cats that think the tree is their personal climbing station. I see work. It's hard to enjoy decorating a tree when I know it all has to be undone in just a few weeks. I anticipate dragging the tree out to the backyard, getting sap and pine pricks on my hands. I do not look forward to vacuuming up prickly pine needles from January until March because I never can quite seem to get them all - or perhaps they multiply. I can't see the forest of joy, for the tree.

I know; I have serious deficits.

I've suggested an artificial tree, but the people who live with me will have nothing of it. They demand a tree that smells like a tree.

This year, I thought I'd take a preemptive and creative approach to the issue. I decided we'd have a tree that isn't quite a tree - exactly.

I got the idea from Pinterest. Instead of a tree, we're going to have a topiary. I'm making it myself.

My project started with an upside-down tomato cage. The base tines are held together with a rubber band. It's a highly technical craft plan. From there, I just wind leaves and garlands around the base to create a green backdrop. Then, items like pinecones, berries and ribbon complete the festive look. I figured I could even spray it with a bottled pine scent.

I started my project last weekend, but ran into a snafu of not having enough garlands, so the topiary currently sits half wrapped in the dining room.

My kids discovered it yesterday and inquired as to its purpose.

"It's going to be our Christmas tree," I said.

They were collectively silent - a feat not often accomplished.

Then the youngest spoke up. "That's supposed to be a tree?" he asked, putting a large inflection on his last word. He got up off the couch to get a closer look. A couple others followed him - another feat not often accomplished. They hadn't been this interested in my activities since the time I made homemade chocolate chip cookies two years ago.

They surrounded the tomato cage, scrutinizing its every leaf.

"It's not done yet," I said. "It's going to look great."

"But it's not a tree," the youngest said.

"Of course it's not," I said. "It's a topiary!"

"Who's ever heard of a Christmas topiary?" he asked.

"You have now," I said. "We're starting a new tradition."

They weren't convinced. They seldom are when I have one of my creative inspirations. Still, I refuse to let them damper my topiary spirit. And, by December 25, bet I'll have them singing new words to the traditional carol, "Oh topiary, oh topiary, how lovely are thy branches."

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don't miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

 
 

 

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