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Woman decorates 63 Christmas trees (w/video)

By Jessica Priest
Dec. 24, 2013 at 6:24 a.m.

The bright colors of Christmas lights cast a warm glow in the living room of Sue Tipton, who goes all-out every Christmas. Buying most of her decorations in sales, Tipton shops when the sales go to 90 percent off.

In 1974, the Tipton family chopped down their first Christmas tree.

A man who owned a Christmas tree farm in Marshall persuaded Sue Tipton's brood to make the five-hour trek.

They settled finally on an 8-foot-tall pine that was so big its needles stuck out of the passenger window of her Mercury station wagon.

"I had one or two kids sitting on the floor and one daughter sneezing (because she was allergic)," Tipton said, chuckling, "and wouldn't you know it, when we got home, we had to cut it because it wouldn't fit through the front door. ... I cried and cried."

Today, Tipton opts for manufactured Christmas trees - lots of them.

She has 63 in her four-bedroom Victoria house and a wreath on every door.

She strings them with twinkling, colorful lights and hangs anything from porcelain flamingos to sparkly Styrofoam gingerbread ornaments off their limbs. Each bobble has a story, and she can't bear to toss them out.

The trees come in all sizes, and when she runs out of them, she makes her own by flipping over tomato cages and wrapping them in garland.

"I heard so many people my age this year say they can't put up a tree. They say, 'Well, it's just too much trouble. I'm scaling back,'" said Tipton, 75, "I could not live if I didn't have some. It wouldn't be Christmas without them."

Tipton's fascination with trees may have begun when she tried to emulate her mother's decorating skills after she got married in 1957.

Back then, you had to order from a Sears' or Montgomery Ward's catalog if you wanted anything other than Shiny-Brite ornaments, she said.

The following year, Tipton was pregnant with her first daughter, Tami Halphen, of Houston, and added a papier-mache blue tree to the mix, sprinkling it with ballerina ornaments made out of pipe cleaners and tulle.

She's always had a knack for that sort of thing, her daughter, Dixie Belz, said.

Belz lives with her mom and watches as she tweaks the trees and assembles the singing Christmas village beginning the day after Thanksgiving. Belz has also learned from her mother how to bargain shop right after the holiday ends.

"I'm a scavenger. When you have 63 trees, I guess you have to be," Tipton said, describing how she found a University of Texas themed tree 90 percent off at Hobby Lobby one year. "She (Belz) keeps saying she's going to forbid me from going anywhere with Christmas decorations."

"Super Bowl is when we're probably going to be taking them down," Belz said, shaking her head.

The two both laughed.



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