Poop Dud saved Christmas the year he was with us.
He was not a pretty tree, but the joy he brought was immense. You can’t say that for most Christmas trees–even when they are real and cut with tenderness by those who want them as part of their Christmas.
Poop Dud was born of frustration rather than revelry. He was a solution to mild irritation and significant disappointment. I had just divorced and as part of that had reclaimed my right to a real tree. I’d vowed only months earlier to have an honest-to-goodness conifer of some sort as part of my holiday decorating for the rest of my life. The wrench in that plan came when I learned I would not be able to get my family all in the same place (my house) to celebrate until Jan 8.
Real trees are hard to keep real. Even with daily watering, the few times I’d had them after we’d moved to the Pacific Northwest hadn’t improved my track record of turning them into very dry kindling in situ. I accepted that trying to keep a real tree until January 8 would be an invitation to the local fire department for a dramatic visit sometime before that.
So I didn’t get a real tree.
But I was adamant about not going back to a fake tree. I’d spent too many years as the unwilling participant in that option. So I did nothing about the tree, assuming the world would not end if I didn’t put up a Christmas tree.
But it still bugged me. I wanted a tree–sort of. Mostly I think I wanted my kids to be more committed to being with me at Christmas, but I wasn’t going to admit to that kind of selfish expectation. They were old enough to have lives, and the reasons they couldn’t gather sooner were legitimate and positive. So I let “the tree thing” just hang in the air–no action and no (obvious) angst.
Until a couple days before Christmas.
Both my brothers and a sister-in-law who live near me were going to be available on Christmas Day, and we’d decided to have dinner together at my house. Without any forethought, the details I gave them a few days before included a request that they bring whatever construction materials they had on hand that might be useful in building a Christmas tree.
I come from a family who strains at the ordinary. We did not build snowmen–we went for snow kangaroos and elephants. We’d also learned a lot about how to construct things growing up. So this notion of building a Christmas tree was not all that far fetched for us.
We were down to three by the time they got there–my sister-in-law had a massive headache and opted for the living room couch instead. After hauling in all they had, plus the stuff I had in my own garage (mostly from the previous owner), we got right to work.
It was like watching the reverse progression of intellectual development. First, my two brothers considered the very adult things–like how to make it stable, what size was going to work for the space I had, etc. They talked triangles and opposing triangles and came up with an intelligent framework so that the whole thing didn’t fall over once we had it done.
Then we moved back to “building something.” I ran for the saw, the hammer, etc. and pulled materials out of the pile to suggest as they worked away at creating something Christmas-tree shaped. (I was sort of the gopher and the general contractor rolled into one. I had final say in what went up, but also knew where the tools were.)
Once we had the “tree” up, decorating it became the work of happy children–three siblings, all magically aged about five again. (My sister-in-law said we sounded like a bunch of kids playing in the basement together.)
We hung pretty stuff. We hung silly stuff. We hung ugly stuff. Eventually, we found a collection of letters from a mailbox I’d been married to that included two o’s. two p’s and two d’s as well as the frame to hold them. We wanted to name our new friend. When we realized we could turn the blank into a “u,” POOP DUD was born.
I had decided early on that it would be “seasonal art.” He was going out in the trash after we finally gathered in January. I cheated a bit on that–I could not bring myself to give up the name plate. It makes me laugh every Christmas when I come across it in the box.
The memory of building that tree with my brothers is with me all year long. The joy and delight we spontaneously found in doing something outlandish together is part of my heritage. Long live Poop Dud.