It’s tree-trimming day—when we haul two artificial trees in their “body bags” along with boxes of lights and ornaments up from the basement (my least favourite part).  Glenn wrestles the real tree into its stand and lies on the floor, awkwardly prone, as he tightens the bolts (his least favourite part). Then comes the decorating—fluffing out the branches of the faux trees, testing many strings of lights and making sure they’re just so before adding the ornaments. Finally, delicate glass ones go on the real tree in the living room, from which marauding cats can be excluded by closing the French doors. The family room tree has 12 Days of Christmas and bottle brush decorations of woodland animals theme (indestructible).

The final tree is the Teddy Bear tree, the hands-down favourite among the grandgirls. You may recall the Teddy Table from a few years ago, set just before all the bears took their places for the season.

Decorating the Teddy Tree involves a family ritual. The girls select the spot for each bear, and Nana secures it to the designated branch with a sturdy twist tie to foil Diabolial Dundee’s nighttime efforts to “liberate” the bears from their tree bondage. This procedure takes time; we stand back frequently to ensure the bears all look happy. Santa Bear used to go on the top, but he’s about the same size as the other bears and lacked the commanding stature needed for a tree topper. So now we crown the tree with a felt tophat, which looks more proportional.

A few hours later, trees lighted, bears secure, lesser ornaments in place, we congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Glenn pours himself a stiff scotch (to ease the discomfort in his back, he claims). Then, the girls start clamouring for grilled cheese sandwiches and Tomato Dill Soup in the penguin mugs, please, Nana.

We place generously buttered multigrain bread, butter side down, on a stovetop griddle heated to medium-high heat, then add sharp cheddar and another slice of buttered multigrain bread, butter side up. The trick is to heat the sandwiches slowly enough to melt the cheddar without burning the bread; we carefully turn them a few times to ensure even melting and toasting. 

Sandwiches accompanied by ramekins of cornichon, hot soup ladled into penguin mugs and topped with shredded cheddar and a few fronds of dill, we are ready for the next stage. Nana carries the tray downstairs so we can all admire the Teddy Tree and watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas, followed by Frosty the Snowman. 

The Christmas Season has now officially begun!