Gleaming Forever

Xmas ornament

Over on the Highway to Heaven, which just sounds better than Avenida Juan Pablo II, across from the Universidad Vasco de Quiroga, just on this side of the Gordon Bodenwein Benedictine Monasterio, which is a story for another day, stood a solid red Christmas tree just outside of a large assortment of trees imported from Canada, never mind that there’s a thriving Christmas tree industry right here in Mexico. Six days later, the glimpse still in my mind, I had to return to check out that tree. Never mind that I never bought a Christmas tree in my life. Or that I’d sprung just the day before for nine of the most beautiful fuschia nochebuenas over at the state forestry department Christmas bazaar.

And that solid red Christmas tree was even more beautiful than the first time I’d seen it. In close second place was an all-black frosted tree. I could be happy with either, but they just couldn’t compete with what I already have.

My Christmas tree came in a box, an original silver Evergleam, grown in the forests of the Aluminum Specialty Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, during the second term of the Eisenhower Administration and the first and only term of the López Mateos, a golden and growing era for both countries. It’s so beautiful that we leave it up all year round, topped off with a Doberman angel, handcrafted by nimble Orvis elves. Hand-blown glass ornaments came from Tlalpujahua, some filled with filament, others with feathers. The only thing missing is that revolving color wheel light, which was more exciting to watch than any ordinary Christmas lights and no doubt set the stage for those hours we’d spend a decade later gazing at posters under a black light.

The Evergleam is an heirloom one, purchased by my grandmother during the one year she didn’t have the florist make up a Christmas tree in something like all-turquoise flocked pine with matching ornaments, which would all be hauled away after New Year’s to prevent her descendants from inheriting Christmas ornaments. My grandparents were always the first in town to have whatever was the newest and latest, so they used that tree once and hid it in a storage closet until more than two decades would elapse. By then, I’d opened my law office, and she suggested it might look good in the waiting room, instructing me that it should be decorated in ornaments of a single color, preferably blue, since that was her color. So, the tree got put up a time or two in the office, and then it found itself shipped to Mexico to my mother, who was living here at the time, who declared it too ugly for words, shoving it back into the bodega, where it would remain for another decade or so. In due time, I would move to Mexico, and in the years following, I would take it lovingly from the original box, carefully releasing the branches from the original paper sleeves, and erect it with red and pink ornaments. Friends who drop by are rendered speechless by the sight of this tree, but I know that deep down, they’re just envious. This tree has seen more holidays than my grandmother ever intended, but I think it’s beautiful in that 1959 pink Cadillac with fins kind of way.

This year, the Evergleam aluminum tree will be 60 years old. And it’s still emblematic of an era when the world was bright, filled with energy, when people of all stripes and faiths could cheerfully wish one another “Merry Christmas” and mean it. And that was the year when Santa Claus brought me double holster cap guns which I proudly wore over a red smocked dress with a red net petticoat underneath.

Melania may have had those stunning red Christmas trees last year, but what she’s missing is an Evergleam.

14 comments on “Gleaming Forever

  1. Craig Stokes says:

    Oh, the memories that you have triggered, the aluminum tree with the color wheel. The wheel which turned and illuminated my grandparents’ front window suffered from warping on one color quarter, don’t recall which. The precursor to the aluminum tree, first in Attica, then Knoxville, Iowa was a flocked artificial tree. It was unceremoniously dumped behind the farmyard fence when I was seven or eight.

    Your writing took me back fifty some years and brought a tinge of regret that I did not save that old aluminum tree when I helped my parents clean out my grandfather’s house nearly 40 years ago. The Evergleam and its sister trees, aluminum or flocked or otherwise, are not magic, rather the memories they bring back to mind are what is precious.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carole Kocian says:

    I have a green artificial tree that came onto being the house tree a few years ago. We had an intolerance to the live green trees and so had to move on to artificial. But it looks pretty cool with the little fairy lights and multi-color glass ornaments. It could be a legacy tree.


  3. I had never heard of an Evergleam till you mentioned it recently. I followed the links here to see what one looks like, and it screams 1960s, which is not bad, though it was not one of my favorite decades. It’s interesting how many Evergleams are available on eBay. In any event, Felíz Navidad later this month, even though you are Jewish. Inclusion!


  4. Sara Rose says:

    Thanks for sharing this great bit of nostalgia. I was late in my first decade of life when pink Cadillacs and cars with fins found their way to the highways of California. Your tree is a precious reminder that Christmas is timeless.


  5. Steve Cotton says:

    My family does not have many traditions. Never did. It may be that Massachusetts Bay Colony puritanism. It is pretty much just another day on the calendar for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kirk says:

    Brought me back to my grandparents house at Christmas more than 50 yrs ago thanks for the happy memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sometimes words have their time in the sun. Occurs to me that gleam is one of those words. It was quite popular in the 1950s and into the ’60s. There was even that toothpaste named Gleem. The spelling was altered a bit by Procter and Gamble. The brand lasted until 2014, I was surprised to learn today.You don’t encounter the word so much anymore. It’s gone out of fashion.


  8. Gleam may have gone the way of ramparts.


  9. victoria ryan says:

    Seriously beautiful!


  10. […] the rest of the story. That moving van contained all my stuff that I didn’t sell or jettison: a 1959 Evergleam Christmas tree, two leather sofas, old chairs, the damn Ranch Oak furniture, a dining room table and chairs, […]


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