The year this natural man became fond of faux

January 18, 2003|By ROB KASPER

MOST OF my life I have been an all-natural sort, but lately I have felt a sudden fondness for the faux. I experienced this new attraction to the artificial last Saturday as I was removing the holiday wreath from the top of our home's front door. It was one of the small jobs that make up the larger responsibility of taking down the Christmas decorations. It is a responsibility that some residents of this community have a hard time facing up to. (Memo to the hard-core holiday types: TAKE DOWN THOSE OUTDOOR LIGHTS, NOW!)

Ordinarily wreath removal is a painful, messy business. The wreath's pine needles, withered by exposure to sun and wind, shower down on me and litter the front steps with pesky green "dandruff."

There is a certain seasonal rhythm to this deluge. It is a sign that there is a cycle to life, even to holiday decorations.

(Memo to seasonal slackers: CHRISTMAS IS ALL OVER!)

Moreover, getting attacked by pine needles is a reminder that along with the joy of the holidays there is also plenty of pain .

(Memo to procrastinators: YESTERDAY'S SNOW IS NO EXCUSE; STRAP ON SOME LONGJOHNS AND YANK DOWN THOSE DECORATIONS!)

On the day you take down the outdoor holiday decorations, the weather is much worse than the day you put them up.

This climate shift is one of nature's little tricks. Before Christmas there is always a weekend when the temperature soars and the wind quiets. This fair weather entices you to haul out the ladder and start decorating. You easily fall victim to the temptation to add one more string of lights to the house or put up more embellishments in prominent but hard-to-reach spots.

The weekends after Christmas are far colder and the winds much more biting than those mild days in December. So in January, as the wind kicks up and the ladder sways, you curse the idiot who put up all those hard-to-retrieve gewgaws. That idiot, of course, is you.

(Memo to the calendar-impaired: IT IS 24 DAYS PAST CHRISTMAS!)Last Saturday morning the wind waited until I was near the top of the stepladder before hitting me with its best shot. In an unsteady moment I thought I was going to fall, done in by decorations. But I snagged the wreath and regained my balance. As I wrapped my hand around the wreath, I was delighted that this time prickly needles did not attack me. The needles of this wreath were soft -because they were faux.

Usually the wreath that adorns our front door comes from the greens sale at Memorial Episcopal Church. These wreaths are classy-looking numbers, made, I presume, by devoted members of the congregation, who use nothing but all-natural ingredients.

This year, however, I missed the greens sale, which was held a few Saturdays before Christmas. Slacker that I am, I found myself in the embarrassing position of being wreathless as the big holiday approached.

By coincidence, a few days before Christmas I found myself in the holiday decoration section of a mass-market retailer and began eyeing the selection of artificial wreaths. They were not classy looking. They were made with only unnatural ingredients, mainly plastic, in a factory in China. But they were oval and they were green. I thought that maybe, if I hung one very high on the door, too high for passers-by to get a good look at, this wreath might pass muster as an appropriate front-door decoration. So I bought a faux wreath and length of faux "piney" garland and presented them to my wife.

I could see by the pained expression on her face that my mass-market purchases did not meet her standard for appropriate home decorations. The faux garland was described, I believe, as "godawful" and was banished to the back of the house. For some reason, in our home it is OK to put schlocky stuff in the backyard where only family members are likely to view it. The good stuff goes on the front of the house, where people we don't know get to gaze at it and appreciate its beauty.

The faux wreath, however, was spared from backyard exile. This happened because my wife was desperate. With the crush of Christmas duties weighing down on her, there was little chance that she was going to have time to shop for a tasteful wreath. So, in a near panic move, she tapped my plastic purchase for front-door duty.

But before the artificial wreath was allowed to appear out front, it had to be de-fauxed a bit. My wife snipped pieces of holly, complete with red berries and prickly leaves, from our holly tree and placed them, along with a big red bow, in the wreath.

Only when the wreath had a natural component, prickly holly sprigs, was I given permission to place it atop our door. It stayed there until last weekend. Apparently the holly ruse worked. No one said "Ewww, your wreath is so ugly." No neighbors signed a petition calling for its removal. No governing body accused us of crimes against good taste.When I took the fauxster down last week I was grateful that, unlike the authentic piney wreathes of past years, this one did not disintegrate in my hands.

The sprigs of holly did manage to strike a few blows for nature. One sharp leaf jabbed me in the finger, and several red berries threw themselves on the steps.

But overall, wreath-removal duty was much easier this year than in prior seasons. As I tossed my glistening green oval into storage, I smiled at the thought that next year it will look just as good, or as artificial, as it did this year. Even if it is banished to back-door duty.

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