Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, December 6, 1999

Decorating the
tree of the season

EVERY year, it's the same aggravation. A week or two after Christmas Day, we gingerly remove the ornaments and decorations from the five- to six-foot-tall fire hazard dominating the living room. The pitifully brittle carcass is wrestled into the family chariot and dropped off at the nearest recycling site.

Then, on returning home, I (notice the singular pronoun in play here) am faced with a mountain of pine needles to clean up.

That's when, as Scarlett O'Hara vowed never to go hungry again, I look toward the heavens and pledge in a loud voice, to no one in particular, "I'm never buying a Christmas tree again!"

It's a hollow threat, though, because of parental guilt or the intoxicating thrill of the season. About 12 months later, I inevitably find myself pointing at some luscious-green, pine-scented mammoth at a neighborhood lot and proclaiming, again to no one in particular, "I'll take that one."

Unfortunately, the only thing harder than discarding the Christmas tree, and picking the right one, is setting it up.

First, one must ascertain the mysterious whereabouts of last year's tree stand. The clanky, red-and-green metal contraption comes boxed and unassembled, probably because the factory workers couldn't put it together, either.

Taming the stand is easy, though, compared to getting the tree in there. Straight. Without it falling over. With the bald spot facing the wall.

But nothing can surpass the joy of hauling out box after box of heirloom Christmas decorations -- all stored in the back of that dreaded closet no one dares approach at any other time.

After stringing on the electrical lights (and fervently praying that they all wink and blink), the rest of the task is nostalgically pleasant:

Bullet Unwrapping the protea angels, handmade crafts and glass balls, and hooking them onto branches already filled with stuffed bears and Santas, delicate angels, and stars of every dimension.

Bullet Trying not to cry when looking at the "Baby's First Christmas" memento that necessarily hangs in a place of honor.

Bullet Finally and jubilantly getting to use those "50-percent off" ornaments, bought a whole year ago at day-after-Christmas sales.

Bullet Placing that special something at the very top of the whole works, because it has always perched at the pinnacle and always will.

AND then the whole family stands back and admires the united accomplishment, taking in the sights and the smells, and not even worrying about school or work for the moment. Because it's almost Christmas Day.

Which is when I'm jogged back to reality; and my mind starts racing about all the stuff that needs to be done.

And I wonder, hey, maybe I should shop online this year; so I surf the World Wide Web and immediately become overwhelmed by all the Web sites and choices available.

So I think, forget this; I might as well go to the mall or local craft fair, so the money stays in recession-weary Hawaii.

Then I return to the Christmas tree, and plop down in front of it, thinking, "My, isn't this nice?" And I don't feel a bit like Scarlett O'Hara.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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