Ahlin: Defining wonderful

Jane Ahlin.jpg

Part of the fun in writing op-eds is the wide range of subjects—anything from local issues to politics to slice-of-life. Occasionally, however, nothing seems to gel into a column. If I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t know what to write about, he had a standard reply (year after year): “Why not write about your wonderful husband?”

Near Christmas, I sometimes (sort of) did. Although the “wonder” in wonderful usually referred to our amazement at having stayed married through another tree-flocking episode.

It always begins innocuously: We head to the Boy Scout tree lot a few blocks from home for a Frasier fir, which for our ceiling must be 8 to 9 feet tall. This year, unfortunately, we were out of town on the everybody-goes-tree-shopping weekend, and we learned to our dismay the lot wasn’t open weekdays until 5 p.m. What to do? Could we flock a tree in the dark? What kind of trees would be left if we waited until the next weekend?

For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with flocking, we’re talking home-style flock popular in the 1950s and 60s. Kits were available in small town hardware stores across America and included white pint-sized plastic containers for water with bright red tops, which in turn had a part for attaching a bag of flock and another for attaching the hose of a vacuum cleaner (wet vacs work best). To use the apparatus requires switching the vacuum cleaner action from sucking to blowing, along with lots of outdoor space for the sticky gummy yucky mess made by water and flock.

Voila! You’re a flocker.


A clue to the idiocy of the endeavor is we’ve never met anybody else who does it. Nobody sells the kits, either. Well, that is, other than a “Classic Christmas” place in Wisconsin. (Vintage is too kind a word; think old, old Christmas stuff.)

We went to the lot at 5 p.m. and discovered Frasier firs were pretty much gone except for one I knew was over 10 feet and way too wide for our living room.

“We’ll take it,” said my husband.

Let me condense this year’s experience. The minus side: 1) the tree was indeed over 10 feet tall and put a long brown scratch in the ceiling when we tried to put it upright; 2) pruning an over-size tree in a living room is a very bad idea.

The plus side: 1) by flocking in the dark, we didn’t know or care whether we’d done a good job; 2) we manhandled the huge tree without either of us requiring back surgery.

Here’s another plus (I think): We didn't have our usual knockdown, drag-out, clear-the-air-for-the-year fight; a wee bit of chagrin and exasperation were all we managed. Coming up on our 49 th Christmas together, perhaps it’s about time. Or, could it mean he really is a wonderful husband and (slightly less likely) I’m a wonderful wife?

Could it be we’ve gentled-up our definition of wonderful?

What To Read Next
Get Local