It was Christmas of 1990 and my husband wanted an artificial tree. I was appalled. We’d always had a real tree. We’d grown up in Oregon for heaven’s sakes. You could flock a tree, you could cover it in tinsel and hang whatever you wanted from its branches, but to qualify as a Christmas tree, it had to have been alive at some point.“You can put an artificial tree up in five minutes” my husband said, “and some even come with lights attached. Not only that, but you don’t have to spend hours tramping around a cold Christmas tree lot.”
But that’s part of the fun I reminded him. And what about tradition, what about the Christmassey smell. No amount of convenience could make up for that.He finally conceded, but left the actual tree hunt up to me. I could do that. In fact that was my favorite part! So the family minus one, piled into our car.
When you arrive at a Christmas tree lot, the first thing you must do is inhale. The heady smell of pine wafting from millions of needles on hundreds of Christmas trees is enough to put anyone in the Christmas spirit. Now all we had to do was choose the perfect one.
Oddly enough, lying on the ground not two steps from the entrance was a lone tree. I picked it up and everyone was immediately struck by its perfect shape. Forget the rest we decided, we had our tree. Marvelling at our good fortune, we loaded it onto the top of the car and merrily carolled our way home.
Our first attempt at securing the tree in its stand was unsuccessful. It stood bravely for a moment, then wobbled and gracefully swooned. My husband lay down on the driveway to adjust the stand and we tried again. This time the tree made no pretense of standing, and crashed into the car as soon as we let go. Strange I mused – meanwhile my husband whose bad back was not benefiting from lying on the cold driveway was beginning to – shall we say grumble. He gave it one more try, then removed himself from the scene.
Maybe we should get a fake one,” my son suggested. “The Wilson’s only took five minutes to set up. I watched them do it.’
“No,” ” I said, trying not to stomp my foot like a three-year-old, “fake trees simply do not cut the mustard. They don’t drop little needles that are sucked up by the vacuum and perfume the air for weeks afterward.”
The troops exchanged worried glances. “I have basketball practice,” someone said. “Me too.” It was a polite mutiny, but mutiny just the same. Oh Ye of little faith!
Alone with my tree I was perplexed, yet undaunted. I took it out of the stand to examine it and discovered the real problem. The trunk was cut at an angle. No wonder the poor thing refused to stand. I rummaged through the garage and found the hand saw. Propping the tree up on a couple of improvised saw horses, I begin to hack through the green sappy wood. Unfortunately this tree had a trunk the size of a California redwood. You know that one you can drive through? This was bigger.
After awhile my husband – the victim of a guilty conscience – reappeared on the scene. Looking at my pitiful pile of sawdust he sighed. “Do you need some help?”
“No Thanks,” I gasped, “I’ve almost got it.”
Removing the saw from my hands, he pointed out that my efforts had produced an indentation of about an eighth of an inch. He took over and before long the tree was whipped into shape and flat on the bottom. We triumphantly hauled it into the house and placed it in the designated corner.
Someone turned on the Christmas music and we proceeded to festoon the real tree with bangles and balls. Finally, I stood back to admire. My tree was beautiful – a sight to behold, and it smelled heavenly. The only thing left to do was put the angel on top.
Since the tree was rather tall, my husband hoisted our toddler up with angel in hand. It was quite a reach, but he grabbed hold of the top and bent it towards him just a little. The tree cooperated and leaned a little farther.
“Uh Oh,” I cried. “Catch it. Don’t let it fall!” One of the boys made a valiant effort and was engulfed by the unruly evergreen. From his eyeball to trunk perspective he made an observation. Mom, the trunk is curved. I think that’s why it was laying there all by itself. It’s defective.
I looked closely. It was true. “Oh well,” I murmured, finally admitting defeat, “You guys were right. I guess we should have gotten a fake one after all.” No one said anything for a minute.
“Now hold on,” said my husband, “let’s not give up so easily.” I stared at this alien who had possessed by husband’s body. He disappeared into the garage for a minute then returned with a rope. Deftly lassoing the tree, he used the curtain tie back as a pulley, hauled the tree into an upright position, and secured the rope to the window frame.
“There,” he said, stepping back to admire his handiwork. “If you squint your eyes and stand over to this side you can’t even see that it’s tied to the wall.”
He was right, and with a few minor adjustments the tree looked gorgeous again. The strains of Bing, singing Oh Christmas Tree began to fill the air, and unexpected tears filled my eyes.
“Thank you honey,” I whispered.
He gave me a wink. “Merry Christmas.”