Still partial to silver, white and live trees

Published 9:29 am Friday, December 1, 2017

By Joel McNeece

My wife Lisa and I spent the Thanksgiving weekend putting up our Christmas decorations at both The Journal and house. I’m one who loves to see them go up the day after Thanksgiving and then come down the day after Christmas.

At the office, Lisa handled the main tree in The Journal’s lobby while I put the smaller silver tree up in my office window. I love silver and white trees. The prettiest Christmas tree I ever saw was in my youth when my family would tour the neighborhoods of Jackson with the most elaborate displays. There was one two-story house that had a vaulted ceiling and a window from roof to floor. Just inside sat what had to be a 12-15 foot white Christmas tree with bright red ornaments and lights. The coup de gras – a tall ladder with what as a small child looked like a life-sized Santa on top stretching out to place a star on the top.

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I think about that tree every Christmas season. I’ve had a few white trees myself through the years, but they never last more than a year or two before they start turning a bit dingy.

This silver tree is more lasting and decorated with blue and white LED snowflakes. It gives off a magnificent shine each night.

A few years ago I had another silver tree that I purchased to use with an antique family color wheel my father uncovered while doing some major cleaning of an outdoor shed.

It was still in its original cardboard box from Gibson’s Department Store, showing he and my mother paid $2 for it. At first check with my dad, he thought they may have purchased it in Kileen, Texas, when he was stationed there at Fort Hood. Turns out Gibson’s was founded in Abilene, Texas. But my mother shortly after corrected him saying they bought it in the 1960s at a Gibson’s on Ellis Avenue in Jackson for my parents’ first Christmas after they married.

The color wheel was simply a small base that holds a flood light, with an electric motor that rotates a shaft on which you snap together four plastic plates colored blue, green, red and orange. The colored wheel turns in front of the light and shined on the silver tree producing a very stylish 1960s-themed display. I used the past tense because the color wheel played out last year, much to my disappointment.

Despite the age of that color wheel, my memories of our family Christmas trees involve my father and me marching into the woods with an ax to find the “perfect” tree for the corner of our living room, certainly nothing artificial.

We would leave our Clinton home and most often head south toward my dad’s hometown of Raymond. It was a true shopping experience as we looked over the many cedars in their natural habitat looking for just the right one. Once the selection was made, we chopped it down and hauled it home where I would assist my mom with the decorating.

It was first covered with the large, old-fashioned C9 multi-colored lights – then the boxes of ornaments, mostly homemade from my kindergarten and elementary school days. There were the gingerbread men cut out of brown construction paper with a pasted black and white picture of my face on it and other cutouts of reindeer, snowmen, elves and more elementary craft work mixed in with the handful of shiny ball ornaments.

An angel was carefully placed atop the tree and then the boxes of icicles, (which would turn up all over the house for months after Christmas), would then be strewn all over the tree until it glistened like a disco ball reflecting all the colored lights (perhaps that’s why I still love silver trees so much).

The sparkle of the lights and icicles, wonderful smell of cedar, and ornaments made from my own hands remain the quintessential Christmas tree in my mind.

Today, my wife’s meticulously decorated Christmas tree(s) look like something more out of Southern Living than the woods of Hinds County. Lisa has an incredible collection of Santa Claus ornaments that fill our 9-foot tree. The dozens of Santa Clauses are complemented by bright white lights, sparkling ribbons, glitter-covered willow and fern-like branches and other bright red and green decorations. It is one of the more beautiful Christmas trees I’ve ever seen.

It’s undergone some slight changes this year to protect it from a meddlesome dog and a crawling grandchild,  but it’s still stunning to look at.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of the Calhoun County Journal.