Station wagon with a pine on the roof says ‘Christmas’
Today kicks off decorating weekend in many households. Themes ranging from cartoon characters to prim Victorian to chalkboard-and-burlap will reign for the next five or six weeks.
One of my favorite holiday motifs — and indeed the basis for my vintage decor scheme this season — is the image of an old Woody or Estate wagon with a fresh-cut Christmas tree roped to the roof.
The simple silhouette of a vehicle — usually depicted as fire-engine red — with a spruce or fir aboard evokes a complex seasonal mix of memories: the brisk, wintry outdoors, the anticipation of tree-trimming fun to come, the pungent scent of sap that you just don’t get with a wispy tinsel tree or practical plastic pine.
(I’ve never chopped down a tree, lashed it to my vehicle and driven home through snowy lanes — though I did once stuff a full-size Scotch pine into the trunk of my purple Ford Escort. It emerged not too worse for wear and, bedecked with those old-style multi-colored C-7 bulbs, made a handsome holiday focal point.)
Somehow just looking at the wholesome mid-century styling of these early utility vehicles, earnestly on their mission to spread holiday cheer, makes me smile. And the tree-atop-the-wagon image must evoke the same wistful feeling in others as it does in me. It’s what the Dictionary of Urban Sorrows (a compendium of made-up words) calls anemoia — that yearning or nostalgia for a time you’ve never actually known. Judging by the array of merchandise out there that features the retro motif, the sentiment is shared by others.
Without even trying, I’ve accumulated a number of goods bearing the tree-toting trucks: a mini version adds a jaunty touch to my mantelpiece Christmas village, a printed flour-sack tea towel spruces up the kitchen (no pun intended), rustic wall art graces the foyer and a ready-to-be-filled stack of 1940s-looking paper gift bags awaits in the wrapping area. Just the other day, I delightedly snapped up a mercury-glass model in a gift shop; the little 3-inch crimson Woody wagon is decked with a tiny snow-flocked tree.
Now that I’m officially on the hunt, the trail has led to more. Pottery Barn is selling a $55 embroidered “lumbar pillow” with the red vehicle stitched against a woodland background; a company called Vineyard Vines offers a man’s necktie dotted with tiny tree-topped wagons for $49.50; the coordinating Woody-and-pine belt is $58.
A place called Castaway, based on Nantucket Island, sells a “corduroy beachcomber pant” for a cool $158; the wide-wale tan fabric is sprinkled with tiny wagon-bearing trees. Bow ties, door mats, pint glasses, lunch bags, key rings — from the haute to the homemade, there’s an item for seemingly every taste, budget and need.
For non-purists, an even greater array of goods features ordinary station wagons (often inspired by the Griswold family in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”) carting the yule trees — from caps and greeting cards to toddler pajamas, from socks to stainless-steel travel mugs, the list goes on.
Naturally, crafty sites like Zazzle, Etsy and of course, Pinterest, offer ideas galore for the do-it-yourselfer, from party invitations to custom postage stamps. And what stocking would be complete with a bit of new holiday jewelry: To my great glee, I spotted a charming pewter pin of a 1940s Woody complete with tiny green pine, and you can believe it didn’t take long to click “add to cart” for that find.
My holiday tree may come from a cardboard box in the basement, instead of a snow-blanketed forest but thanks to purveyors of retro decorations, with a little Nat King Cole on the Bluetooth speaker and the scent of sweet hot chocolate emanating from the microwave, I can dream.
Melissa Preddy is a Michigan-based freelance writer. Reach her via Melissa@MelissaPreddy.com