Memories and Musings: Nails to the rescue!

Published 7:18 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

By Gene Gallelli

Imagine a cold November afternoon, with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers reduced to scraps and a fresh-cut Christmas tree sprawled on the green family room carpet.

Four pairs of intense family eyes – one painfully hawkish – send me the same message: Well, we’re waiting! Put up the tree.

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The couch and loveseat have been rearranged, the corner adjacent to the fireplace has been cleared and bulging boxes of ornaments lay open and waiting for their annual display among the multi-colored lights.

My wife has invited a dear friend over who sits smiling, a glass of wine in hand, waiting for another lesson of Italian expletives and eager to watch a beast emerge from my normally gentle soul.

When, as usual, the tree stump is too big for any of the three available stands, I exit to our messy garage and reappear dangling an electric hedge trimmer. Moments later, the family-room air is filled with flying wood chips and nasty comments, while in the background a dissident chord of muffled chuckles can be heard.

After a few moments of proudly pointing at the erect tree . . . it falls over! It makes a sound – at least to me – as nerve-wracking as a mighty oak crashing in a snow-covered forest.

Sneering like a troll, I race to the hall closet and return with a reel of fish line and two screw-tipped eyelets. Up goes the tree, around which the fish line is wound and at each dangling end the eyelets are attached and knotted, then screwed into the wall on each side of the fragrant pine. The tree teeters, then falls, pulling grotesque, misshaped pieces of plaster from the side-by-side walls.

More wine is poured. An ominous silence fills the air, as spectators decide whether to leave or stay.

To everyone’s surprise, I display a broad, you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet smile, and then calmly leave the room and head back to the garage.

The pounding of my footsteps ascending the stairs from the garage puts an end to the casual chatter around the fallen tree. Our neighbor stifles a gasp when she observes that I am carrying a tool box in one hand and a small paper bag in the other.

I stand the tree upright and calmly ask a daughter to please hold it for me. From the tool box I retrieve a hammer and from the paper bag, four ten-penny construction nails (you know, the big, long shiny ones). After carefully inserting a nail into each of the holes in the tree-stand’s four jutting legs, I triumphantly pound each ten-penny spear through the carpet and into the floor, one glorious nail at a time.

It didn’t move a fraction after that. It didn’t dare!

With the show over, the family set about the task of hanging the ornaments acquired over many years of the tree-hanging ceremony. The result was beautiful: a Christmas tree adorned from limb-to-limb with wonderful memories.

In consideration of my and the floor’s continued health, the following year we purchased an artificial tree. But, based on comments I occasionally hear, the old legend lives on . . . I think!