The Postscript: A midcentury modern Christmas

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, December 16, 2020

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The Postscript:
By Carrie Classon

“I’ve forgotten the funny name of the tree you helped us pick out,” my mother said. “Our tree this year is named Melinda.”

The greenhouse where my parents get their Christmas tree every year has festive tags hanging from the trees with their names and prices. These are not inexpensive trees, so it’s fitting they are all individually christened. My mother likes to support this local business — and they do have nice trees.

“Caleb. The tree I picked out with you was named Caleb.”

We both agreed Caleb was a silly name for a Christmas tree, although I wasn’t sure Melinda was a whole lot better.

Christmas trees are a matter of strict personal taste. I know people who had one-too-many years of needles in the carpeting and became artificial tree owners forever after. Then there are people who insist you need a live tree — but it doesn’t count unless you cut it yourself.

My husband, Peter, bought the house we live in before we met. It was built in 1955 and Peter was born in the ‘50s, so when I moved in, both the house and its owner had a midcentury modern vibe, and I was fine with that. We have midcentury modern dishes and lamps and furniture. But I draw the line at a midcentury modern Christmas tree.

Peter has a Christmas tree from the ‘50s that is made entirely of aluminum. It is pokey and shiny and Peter thinks it is wonderful. “It matches the house perfectly!” Peter says.

That may be, but it doesn’t look like Christmas to me.

So, last year, I went downtown looking for a tree. There was a lot filled with perfectly coiffed trees that would have put Melinda or Caleb to shame, but they were exorbitantly priced — and they didn’t even have names. The fellow selling them seemed to have come from a background in car sales.

“So, what kind of tree did you have in mind?” he asked me.

“One that doesn’t cost more than two weeks’ worth of groceries!” I wanted to say.

Instead, I went looking for the second, less-fancy lot in town, but it was hard to find. I got directions twice and drove around in circles until I finally saw a half-dozen straggly trees poking up over an embankment. I drove down into the deserted parking lot and there was a spindly bunch of trees, all of them over 10 feet tall. A sign was posted nearby. “Family Emergency — Pay at Hair Salon.”

I went across the street and, sure enough, the proprietor of the tree business had been called away and the trees were all being sold for a fixed price — any size. I gave my money to the hairstylist, picked out a gangly tree, and strapped it to my car.

When I got home, I cut four feet off the bottom, put it in the tree stand and saw … it was perfect.

This year, once again, we will be home for the holidays and, unlike last year, I don’t expect anyone will see our tree except Peter and me. And I don’t care.

I’m headed downtown today, to the lot with the disreputable-looking trees. Peter will cluck his tongue and say something about the perfectly good aluminum tree he has stashed away in a box somewhere. But he’ll be a good sport (as he always is) while I decorate my midcentury modern home for Christmas and smell the fresh spruce.

This year, I might even give my tree a name. I’m thinking of naming it Peter.

Till next time,


Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at