Let me start by saying that I’m thrilled to have a Christmas tree in my house this December. It’s the first time I’ve decorated for the holiday in probably a dozen years. I turn the lights on every single night, and enjoy their ambiance. It makes everything special, and set apart from the ordinary. Reading a book, eating dinner, practicing my Pilates routine or playing with the dogs all seem imbued with holiday flair when done in the glow of the Christmas tree. That being said, I recognize that my tree has a few “issues.”
Picking out the Christmas tree was an hours-long adventure when I was young. The tree had to look good from all sides. Or, if it were exceptional in every other way, three good sides would do, with the flawed area backed into the corner or turned to the wall. Our tree had to have a straight trunk. It had to be symmetrical. It should be full, but not so full that ornaments wouldn’t hang properly. It had to almost reach the ceiling, with just enough room for the tree-top ornament.
Exceptions were noted. There was the year that my father had managed to score a lovely blue spruce. That went into the family annals as “the best Christmas tree, ever.” One year, the tree was so unstable – do to an overlooked bend in its lower trunk – that it had to be wired to the ceiling to keep it upright. And there was one that shed its needles so badly, we were afraid it would be bald by Christmas.
We admired the Christmas trees of others. The Immaculate Conception Church always had beautifully decorated trees on each of the side altars, and an almost life-sized nativity set, too. Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway had an awe-inspiring color-coordinated tree. Mrs. Linehan had the most darling, tiny tabletop tree. The unseemly white, artificial tree, in the front window of the Grue’s house, caused murmurs and sighs every day when we rode past in the school bus.
In my husband’s family, it was my father-in-law’s job to go and get the Christmas tree. He took the task seriously. He was sent with a list of specifications and requirements from his wife and two children. He tried very hard to please. Yet, every single year, he came home with a tree that was bigger around than it was tall. “A shrub!” my mother-in-law would exclaim, “You brought home another bush!” He’d grin sheepishly, and say, “But look how full it is,” and, “Now, Pat, you have to leave room for the Christmas tree stand,” and, “Don’t you think it’s going to look just fine once it’s decorated?” He was right, it always did look fine, in a short, fat, comical way.
This year when I decided to get a tree, I also decided that it didn’t require so much thought. I have several little pine trees that have grown up in my side yard; all of them need to be removed. My tactic was to find the best-looking one, and give it a stint as my Christmas tree. The dogs and I spent an afternoon wandering through the brambles and low brush to assess each one. I cut down the one deemed “best” with a small carpenter’s saw, and leaned it against the house.
It waited there for several days, until I had time to bring it in, set it up and decorate it. By that time, anticipation had made me quite attached to my little tree. So, I was willing to ignore several flaws in it’s character. First, it’s crooked. I don’t know how I missed it, but it’s true. Definitely crooked. Second, it’s quite spindly. The broadest part of its crooked trunk is only perhaps an inch in diameter. Third, it’s branches are very sparse. There is at least twelve inches between each row of branches through the whole length of the crooked trunk.
Fourth, its branches are weak. The lights clip on, so they at least hold their place, though they cause each branch to droop. The ornaments slide right off. There is always a puddle of decorations on the floor under the tree, and I am constantly picking them up to try again. Finally, this tree is a bit too tall. It reaches the top of the room and the spindly top branch bends sideways across the ceiling.
It’s okay. I can’t locate the home-made angel (that, in any case, looked a bit too much like a hooker) that we used to put on the treetop, anyway. I may have passed it down to one of my daughters. And this year, happy to have a Christmas tree, I am prepared to overlook every single flaw in this particular specimen!