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Tag Archive: Charlie Brown

Dec 01

Magically decorated trees along highways make us smile (Local traditions of Christmas – Part 1)

Buddy: “It looks like a Christmas tree” – from the 2003 movie ‘Elf’

On more than one occasion, I wrote in this column about the Christmas decorations that magically appear about this time of year on forlorn little cedar trees along Interstate 70 in eastern Jackson County.

It is a tradition.

Shiny garland and simple homemade decorations suddenly adorn these modest, ordinary cedar trees that we really don’t notice the rest of the year.

Come Christmas season though, that changes. At the first sighting each year, we marvel at the awesome sight and begin to wonder who decorates them and why. How do they do it without being seen, and who are those people, we ask?

Could there be several folks who individually decorate random trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

Last year, I commented in this column that these lonely, scraggly evergreens remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree featured in the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, first aired in 1965.

I bet you remember this scene.

After Linus and Charlie Brown discover the little tree standing alone in the woods:
Charlie Brown: This little green one here seems to need a home.
Linus Van Pelt: I don’t know, Charlie Brown. Remember what Lucy said? This doesn’t seem to fit the modern spirit.
Charlie Brown: I don’t care. We’ll decorate it and it’ll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me.

Yes, indeed, someone out there knows our needs and seems to know how much we hurried passersby long to see these brightly decorated, sweet little trees. Maybe they need us, too.

Interestingly, the phenomenon is happening elsewhere as well. Last December, I quoted an AP story that noted the same thing was happening in New Jersey: “An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway,” the article explained. “A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

And now, this headline from the online ‘Arizona Republic’ jumps out at me as I read the morning news. It proclaims: “Humble tree captures spirit of Christmas” (along Interstate 17 near Milepost 254 between Phoenix and Flagstaff).

In the story, Tom Foster, a retired engineer from Arizona’s Department of Transportation, says that he knows who is behind the decorating of this lone, cheery but rather rotund juniper. The story notes that the tree “doesn’t seem to have any noteworthy values. It is shaped more like a huge tumbleweed than a pointy-topped holiday pine or spruce.”

However plain it may be, it cheerily greets travelers sporting big red bows, giant cardboard candy canes, paper snowflakes and stars, and bright garland.

“It may be elves,” Foster suggests.

Elves? Could that be who ‘the Secret Santa’ is that decorates the cedars on I-70 in western Missouri?

However, dear readers, I am sorry to say there is one disclaimer to this story.

So far this year, no magically decorated Christmas cedars have appeared. I am watching and waiting to be enthralled like thousands of other motorists.

Where are they, I worry.

The sweet and simple decorations bring joy to harried souls, and for the briefest moment, surprised motorists believe in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, the decorations make us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might climb those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

Realistically speaking, I must leave this task to the more athletic among us, or find an elf.

Come to think of it, some of those trees are close to the outer road and technically doable for ‘elves’ with bad knees.

I wonder.

Buddy, can you help me?

Dec 02

Hoping for decorations to reappear on I-70 cedar trees

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”–Linus Van Pelt from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, 1965

It is the week after Thanksgiving and that is when I begin to watch for the magically decorated cedar trees to appear along I-70 in eastern Jackson County.

You know the trees.

Those little cedars that sit alone on highway embankments and beg for attention. They remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree from the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent years, whoever faithfully decorated those trees in the 80s and 90s stopped.

I wrote about this before as have others, all wondering why. Was it a sad widower who decorated those trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who randomly decorated the trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

For whatever reason, I wish they would do it again.

Perhaps there are highway department reasons barring decorating trees along the interstate highways or simply the fact that it is not an easy task to do.

One must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, circle the garland around the tree, all in the dark of night without being seen by car headlights.

Otherwise if not at night, where would be the magic?

On the same subject, I recently noticed a similar AP story by Wayne Parry who wrote about a roadside Secret Santa in New Jersey:

“An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway”. A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

The highway department there says they are not responsible. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility. As the story goes, for the fourth year in a row, ornaments appear gradually and eventually grow to about a dozen by Christmas.

The mystery is enthralling to watch.

But I digress; back to our own Charlie Brown cedars along I-70 in western Missouri and a story that bears repeating.

Thousands of motorists along Interstate 70 watched each December for the first sighting of the decorated cedars; thousands wondered who was responsible.

The sweet and simple decorations brought joy to hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, they made us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might be climbing those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

I must leave that to the more athletic among us.

Some of those trees, however, are close to the outer road and technically doable.

I wonder.

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me.”—Emily Dickinson

Jan 14

Housebound with bad coffee

“I had some surgery on my feet, which has helped my back some.” –Merle Haggard

Before the end of calendar year 2009, I joined numerous others who met their annual deductibles and hurried into the hospital for long-overdue surgery.

In my case, it was my foot.

And yes, my back quit hurting, too, just like Merle Haggard’s.

The idea was to use the month of January to recuperate. Stay off the foot for at least four weeks with no weight-bearing whatsoever allowed.

Thus, for the first two weeks I am proud to say I became quite self-sufficient flying around the first-floor kitchen and living room in my wheelchair.

I worked on the computer, which we moved to the dining room table because it was the correct height and more accessible. I accomplished simple household chores with relative ease in all manner of creative ways. Life was good.

Until one day, that is, when I discovered some unpleasant revelations from my low vantage point.

For example, you have no idea how many dust balls one can see from the confines of a wheelchair. It sits low to the ground so every bit of dust along the baseboards jumps out at you as though in 3-D.

“I am becoming our Grandson Halen,” I moaned. You see, when the kiddo was two, he crawled around the floor picking up tiny pieces of lint and handing them to us. Now I’m doing that.

And then there are the deceased Chinese beetles and flies one can see “up close and personal” on the floor.

“Todd, where did all these dead flies along the baseboard come from?” I asked my husband.

“I don’t’ know Margo,” he said. “They are probably just living in the attic to stay warm and find their way downstairs,” he answered, completely non-plussed.

“Arghh,” I said, abandoning the Christmas Vacation vernacular and slipping into Charlie Brown lingo.

I am sorry to admit, dear readers, that what you just read is the most interesting part of my first two weeks of recuperation, except for my morning coffee ritual.

Perhaps, I should tell you about that after all since it is too late to put it in a Christmas letter.

Here’s the problem. We live in a two-story house; therefore, I limit my trips up and down to twice a day. This journey requires that I sit on the steps facing down and slide up, one by one, in order to get upstairs at night for bed. In the morning, the method is reversed.

The problem with being stuck on the second floor first thing in the morning is that I am dependent on someone to bring me coffee and fast. I adore my morning coffee, which must be made a certain way and with the particular kind of coffee I like.

OK, so I am a high-maintenance coffee drinker; I admit it.

Still, the hubby cheerfully brings me an early morning breakfast tray with a steaming cup of coffee, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Unfortunately, I can see the bottom of the cup. Not good for an aficionado of strong coffee like me.

He likes to count the scoops when making coffee so that it’s done exactly according to package directions. I, on the other hand, pour the coffee almost to the top of the filter basket and pronounce that close enough. This is not the same thing.

Dutifully, I drank his mild brew for a few days without making much of a fuss.

That is, until yesterday when he came upstairs with the first cup of the day.

“Yuk, what is this?” I asked after tasting it. “Dead Decaf?”

Turned out it was indeed a package of stale decaf coffee he found in the freezer. “I bought this at Café DuMonde in New Orleans ten years ago,” I complained.

There are two more weeks to go before I can walk downstairs in the morning and make my own coffee.

Other than that, being housebound is going swimmingly. I’m not complaining, you understand. I am just saying.

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