Why did I decide I had to have a Christmas bird tree in recent years? That seems the question on the lips of everyone I know.
Ironically, the answer evades even me. The idea just grew out of the fun my husband Jim and I find watching birds in our yard. Robins and blue jays often nest in our climbing roses, letting us see their progeny's first flying lessons.
As temperatures dip, the "sport" moves to the window wall of our sun porch, where a nearby white birch provides a stopover for birds flying off in all directions. We also look for the friendly cardinal that stays close to home, keeping an eye on us by pecking a daily "Hello" on the window.
Musing on the bird tree, I think back to Christmases past, when we had many more elaborate trees. When working as a Gimbels advertising copywriter, I admittedly became prime customer for my own copy, deciding that we should host the "Twelve Trees of Christmas."
One year, I toted home bright papier mache ornaments with a Mexican flair. Another Christmas, gingham-dressed teddy bears presented a homespun flavor. The most elaborate tree wore rose-colored velvet ornaments embellished with bugle beads and satin ribbon in an "uptown" attempt.
But now, I felt ready for a more natural outdoor mood. Everybody knows that the first Christmas scene included animals -- why not make our little tree bright with the birds we enjoy all year? Real birds would flutter just outside, completing the perfect picture I envisioned.
I decided it was a brilliant idea. Jim was less captivated but went along for the ride.
First, we had to find a tree, and we decided on a faux tree that represented less work than the real thing. Contrary to other years, when we looked for the fullest tree, we now searched out a rather narrow tree to fit our sun porch window seat.
Even I had to admit we must have sounded funny to other shoppers as we bantered, making calls like, "Look, I think this one's skinny enough!" or "Great! I found a real Charlie Brown type!"
But to everything there is a season, and we finally located the tree whose time had come. It was snow-frosted green, tall, but lean enough not to intrude on passing guests.
In other words, "It's perfect!" I exclaimed, while other shoppers shook their heads. Jim quickly toted it to the car to escape further fuss.
Next, we were off to find feathery bird ornaments at the craft shop. I decided that blue jays were the order of the day, since they seem to regard our yard as home territory. Plus, a blue, white and silver tree worked with our white wicker porch and would melt into the wintry scene outside. Voila!
This bit of whimsy required sifting through stacks of redbirds and exotic cockatiels to unearth rare blue jays with a cheer. After finding our quota (plus a white dove and peachy bird of undetermined origin) I added a few blue butterflies. Silver glass ornaments and pearly sprigs waited in our attic, so we were in business.
Back home, after Jim set up the tree and added white twinkle lights, we agreed it was perfect.
My idea had taken flight!
I regarded the tree as a wonder, but guests were not as easily convinced.
"Oh, a bluebird tree," they said, often appearing taken aback when entering the sun porch. "What a ... novel idea."
Of course, there were jokesters, hilariously chortling, "This is for the birds!"
Then one especially cold day, I got my validation. We looked out the sun porch windows and there, sitting on a birch branch, very near the indoor tree, was a chubby baby blue jay looking quite comfortable. He stayed and shared his company for several hours as a very welcome guest.
Had he seen the bird tree through the window and been attracted by the shiny ornaments? Could he actually recognize the bird duplicates of himself perched inside?
Perhaps he just chose the birch branch as a random spot to spend the cold afternoon. But I like to think that sometimes if you send out an idea with real faith and energy, it can return unexpected rewards.
Of course, it never hurts if the season is Christmas.
Carole Yagello Takach of Mt. Lebanon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Holiday Herald" submissions about best (or worst) holiday experiences that might interest others. Send your writing to email@example.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255. First Published December 5, 2012 5:00 AM