Now that the ornaments, ribbon, lights, and pickle had all been removed, wrapped in tissue paper, placed in their plastic or foam storage casing, and packed into boxes for their lengthy rest until next Christmas season, we stood back and observed the bare Frasier Fir. I thought about where we first saw it over at Hann's Tree farm. We wandered from tree to tree; too skinny, not consistently round, not the right kind, too tall, a bit empty on this side, and so on. Mary Lou, Madeline's grandmother, spotted it as we walked disappointingly treeless back to the car. Hundreds and hundreds of tree hungry families obviously ignored this one because of it's small stature, but it was wonderfully full and round. After a couple minutes of debate, I plopped down and satisfyingly sliced through it's trunk as if it were butter, truly. "We'll spread the canvas, lay the tree down, slide it out the back door, and stand it up in the backyard. The birds always appreciate it", said Madeline's grandpa, Richard. It happened just like that, and it was the last Christmas piece cleared from sight. All that was left was to sweep up some fir needles, specs of glitter, small bits of foam, and a tiny jingle bell.
The time had now come and gone, the time I had been envisioning a few weeks earlier as I was hanging roping, straightening candles, placing ribbon, and much more with the Christmas set up at Mary Lou and Richard's home. It began with the outside display, a display that the locals make sure to see each year and new folks in town will stop in their tracks upon walking, or driving by. You simply cannot ignore the comedic scene on the roof with Santa, questionably looking down upon his clumsy reindeer, all twisted up in ribbon, with Rudolph's red nose bobbing up and down. With ropes, ladder, drill, bags, and many hands, the roof display was cleared. We moved to the front porch. Down came the roping along the awning, above the front door and up the railing. Down came the colored lights wrapped around the two cherry trees that were placed so that the trees would appear to be twirling as cars passed by. This year, thanks to Madeline, there was even a reference to Harry Potter on the porch, an Owl making a delivery. It floated up and down "mysteriously" each time the front door was opened and closed. It's now cleared away too. The human size St. Nicholas, with his long Pinocchio like nose, whose bobbing head seamed to follow the owl up and down, is now leaning against a wall in the tool shed. Inside the house is just as spectacular for those fortunate, or should I say brave enough, to visit the Fendricks. However, the time has passed and the roping, ribbon, faux birds, mistletoe, Richard's hand-crafted nativity scene, the electrified miniature village with miniature townsfolk and frosted trees, the raggedy old Santa puppet, is all tucked away upstairs in several large storage bins stacked to the ceiling.
Why do we go through with the trouble of setting up an entire house, inside and out, pulling all the stops, unpacking all the bells and whistles, to only pack them away a few weeks later? Back at my parents home, besides putting away the tree ornaments, the strings of white lights would be removed from the front of the house, and the wreath removed from the front door. Inside, the mistletoe would be taken down from the front entrance, and the red clay alter scene boxed up. The stuffed Santa's, with fat bellies and skinny legs and arms, and the stuffed reindeer I looked forward to playing with each year, all packed away. The Christmas themed kitchen plates, glasses and mugs, all gently wrapped and boxed. Quite the job now that I think back on it.
Seasons end and are followed by the next. So why not mark these moments as apposed to watching them pass by, as if each day were the same. Enter into the realm of the stories and myths of the community and the cyclical nature of the earths seasons. Ritual is human nature. It brings meaning into our life. It presents a theme. It gives us something to celebrate or mourn. It supplies an environment to reflect on. It inspires a meal, an outfit, a gift, a game, a painting, a photo, a journal entry, a song.
So what now that the tree has come down? What now that the sky is gray and the field grasses are asleep under a blanket of snow? The bears are in hibernation. The geese have flown south.
"It's nice to see our living room back," said Mary Lou. Richard: "The light is free to enter the room again."
Madeline Fendrick and Brian Peck
We're happy to share with you stories from our journey as artists. Stories from the road, and stories from our home base in Stoughton, WI.
Logo Art by:
Robert Peck (Brian's Dad)
Cover Photos by: