Kirkcaldie & Stains was a very old fashioned department store that had operated in Wellington since 1863. It had brass doorhandles, a doorman with a hat that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Beefeater in the Tower of London, and the gentle sound of a grand piano playing the hits of the 1920s and ’30s. Kirkcaldie & Stains took Christmas seriously. It had Christmas windows, it had a grotto where you could visit Father Christmas, and it had a Christmas shop which sold expensive imported decorations.
Most of the decorations at the Kirkaldie & Stains Christmas shop were the height of provincial – one might say Victorian – tastefulness. But there were always some unusual ones:
Even the early 1990s these misfit decorations were expensive, always over $10 each, sometimes over $20. When we first moved to Wellington we couldn’t afford these decorations. So I limited myself to one or two “special” decorations a year. Under this restriction I tended to choose the most outrageous thing in the shop.
These quirky decorations added interest to my bountiful Maurice Sendak Christmas trees. I loved the way my nieces and nephews picked out the most unusual ones:
In 2010 when my friends intervened and gave me a tasteful, white and gold Christmas tree, I had a huge number of oddly coloured slightly weird one off decorations. These weird decorations, plus some blue tinsel and purple baubles which I have no adequate excuse for, went into the misfit pile and became a misfit christmas tree.
I decorated my red babble tree and my misfit tree at the same time. I had much higher hopes for the red tree adorned with my favourite red baubles, but I have to admit that looking back at the photos, the misfit tree worked a lot better. It didn’t look good enough to eat. The blue tinsel and purple tinsel made all the decorations look slightly poisonous, or at least much too full of food colouring , to eat safely. But it did look bountiful and exuberant and a little bit like it belonged to a character in Dr Seuss.