Oh, Christmas Trees!

Litha Mueller’s Port Washington home is a forest of Christmas trees
By 
Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press Reporter

For Litha Mueller of Port Washington, there’s just something about a Christmas tree. The glowing lights bring her peace and joy each holiday season — and she can find that serenity in every room of her two-story home, some with multiple trees.

Mueller puts up between as many as 19 trees each year, and none are tabletop models. Any one in her collection could be a family’s main Christmas tree.

Each is exquisitely adorned with ornaments, beads, garland, ribbons, pine cones and a host of other holiday decor items that follow a theme and color.

“Every room needs a tree,” she said.

A walk through her home almost brings classic Christmas carols to the ears without putting on any music. Sounds from the traffic on Grand Avenue fade away as the wonder of each tree fills the room.

“Doesn’t it put you in the Christmas spirit?” Mueller asked. “It’s just that calming.”

Mueller will often invite friends to share in the amicable ambiance. “Sometimes we’ll just sit here,” she said from her living room inhabited by multiple trees. “We don’t talk because of the glow.”

Mueller doesn’t even need to turn on any room lights. A simple click to illuminate each tree provides plenty.

Her passion for her holiday hobby has deep roots. Mueller grew up as the daughter of a mother who loved Christmas.

“She painted characters — Smurfs as big as us — and she made my dad nail them to the house,” Mueller said. “She was very artistic.”

Litha Mueller’s own children, all five of them, each had a tree growing up.

“They’d look at their Christmas tree and crawl into bed,” Mueller said. “What a better way to have sweet dreams?”

Mueller’s trees are so tall a star won’t fit on top. She puts on different types of crowns instead, using her trusty step stool.

“Nine-foot ceilings,” she said. “Go big or go home.”

The four trees in the family room are shorter due to lower ceilings.

“They’re only eight-footers,” Mueller said.

The one in the kitchen is narrow enough to just fill the space where an old table sits for 11 months of the year. Mueller has an incomplete set of china from her grandmother, so she bent some of the coordinating spoons and hung them as ornaments.

A shorter tree is in the guest room because of a sloped ceiling.

“I even have a little one in the bathroom. I don’t have to turn on a light,” she said.

Another bathroom that is too small for a tree doesn’t get neglected. Lighted Christmas decor rests across the bathtub.

Mueller doesn’t name her trees but they have a pronoun, much like the treasures of car enthusiasts.

“I call trees ‘she,’” Mueller said.

Her “big girl” wasn’t put up this year because its diameter was more than the living room could handle. Mueller may rearrange things to fit her in next year.

Mueller puts her trees up before Thanksgiving. Family members visiting get to see the trees and their lights, but not the ornaments. Those are hung after turkey day.

“I put on Christmas music and go to town,” Mueller said. Her favorites are the classics, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby and songs by Dean Martin.

It takes Mueller about an hour to decorate each tree. The most time-consuming part is the fluffing of the branches.

“If you like it, it’s really not work,” she said.

She finds tree time outside of her job at Hidden Treasures Resale Shop in Port, but her workplace doesn’t escape Mueller’s spread of holiday cheer. She put up nine trees there. She also decorated a 12-foot tree at Friedens Church in Port.

At home, each tree can get a different theme of ornaments each year, depending on how Mueller decides to decorate.

“Friends come over  — ‘Oh, is this new?’

“No, I just moved stuff around,” she said.

The one tree that stays consistent is Mueller’s favorite. The one in her bedroom has glass balls hanging from it. Her late husband Gary used to buy her a new ornament every Christmas. Now, her children take turns giving her one to continue the tradition.

Mueller manages her hobby without breaking the bank. Her trees are man-made and all are second hand, as are their ornaments, although their immaculate condition makes them look like they came directly from a shopping mall.

Mueller lives in her great-great-grandparents’ home in Port Washington. She purchased it after her mother died and her father wanted to downsize.

When Mueller and her husband moved into the house, “A little tree looked silly. Then we got bigger trees and kinda grew with the house,” she said.

During the Depression, five grown children lived in the house with their parents and pooled their money to survive. The backyard had a big garden where Mueller still grows flowers.

“In summer, it’s dirt therapy,” she said. “In winter, it’s tree therapy.”

When the economy improved, her grandparents bought the house next door. Mueller runs that as a bed and breakfast inn called the Silvers Four-Six-Four after her granparents, Floyd and Norma Silvers.

Mueller has Christmas there too. “The last people who were there said it felt like home. They said they just sat by the Christmas trees.”

Mueller stores her trees in the basement of her inn. They fold up nicely, she said, which makes put-up and takedown easier. Trees on the second floor of her home stay upstairs in bags.

Mueller’s children have begun to follow in their mother’s footsteps. They have multiple trees, and her grandchildren — ages 4, 2, 8 months and 6 months — are already becoming enthralled.

“They are mesmerized by the lights,” Mueller said.

She estimates each of her trees has about 700 lights. She has no idea on how many ornaments.

What else might be immeasurable is the hearts they warm and the Christmas spirit they spread.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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