O Christmas Tree, O Hunan Shrimp

The cedar trees we found in the woods that became our Christmas trees always had fall leaves scattered in their branches.

I often wonder which of today’s frequently uttered cliches will be thought of by today’s children and wondered at when they grow older.  For example, “It is what it is,” might well be something that the very young of today will vaguely remember hearing their moms and dads pronounce with a certain amount of bemused wonderment.

My father would repeat the following phrase as if it was the most plausible thing in the world, smiling as he intoned,  “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” As a child, blissfully unaware of General Douglas MacArthur and his speech, I was left to try to fathom the strange image this statement called forth, a gray bearded old fellow disappearing like the Cheshire Cat into foggy oblivion.

I hadn’t thought of this in ages, until late this afternoon, when we returned to GPAC for Decorating the Foyer, the Sequel–an adventure that  always involves the restitution of a Christmas tree that has seen too many Christmas pasts. Like the swagging of the garland in years of yore, the decorating of the tall and awkwardly tipsy tree has been a frustrating effort, sort of like, dare I say it? Like putting lipstick on a pig. Each year the tree seems to become less of its former self. I’d have to say that although the thing refuses to die, it  has most definitely been  fading away.

Therefore , it was a profound relief to sally forth across the street and drag back to GPAC two brand spanking new Christmas trees that both stood straight and were pre-lit. And as Mary kept exclaiming, at least according to the information on the box, the trees branches all possessed memory.

Once situated on their respective sides of the foyer, the decorating went fairly quickly, and now both trees are wearing the same gay apparel that my tree that won Best of Show at last year’s Enchanted Forest wore–a mantle of autumnal leaves and brown and burnished gold ornaments.  These remind me of the fall leaves that were often caught in the branches of the cedar trees that my daddy and I would drag home a week or so before Christmas. These sometimes bushy, and sometimes airy trees were the standard bearers of the Christmas’s of my childhood, shimmering  with silver tinsel and glass beads of blue and pink and red, green and gold, and Shiny Brite ornaments that sparkled amid the large colored glass electric bulbs and bubble lights.

No tree will ever fill me with as much wonder, or thrill me the way those simple trees did. But those trees and the magic of them inspires me to decorate the trees that I “do” for GPAC or for the Enchanted Forest, knowing that a child will come along, see the tree, and feel for a moment that same feeling that I once had.

Bill's ceremonial Hunan shrimp dish.

After the festooning, Mary, Bill, and I rejoined at the Royal Panda for an enjoyable dinner. As usual, everyone declared the meal the best ever. Bill ordered what has now become his ceremonial favorite dish, the Hunan Shrimp, while my Mary, who had urged Mr. Wu “to surprise” her had the Peking Sea Bass.

Mr. Wu has a Peking way with sea bass.

And mine? As usual Mr. Wu nailed it. He chose a dish chock full of flavor and vitamins for me that also embodied the colors of fall–shrimp and tomatoes with brown rice with a zippy chardonnay, for which I wasn’t just thankful–I was grateful.

Warm and delicious, saucy Shrimp and Tomatoes with Brown Rice

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