If A Tree Falls … In The Living Room

by Beth Diane Bradley

Long before the advent of Christianity, people believed that evergreens would protect them from ghosts, witches, evil spirits, and illness. For that reason, the pilgrims considered Christmas trees a pagan tradition that made a mockery of the sacred holiday.

Of course pretty much everything has changed since the pilgrims ruled, and Christmas trees come in as many varieties as puppies at the pound.

Throughout the holiday season, discussions about what type of tree is best are popular. And ultimately, the correct answer depends on your lifestyle.

I grew up in an era when almost everyone had real Christmas trees. But over the years, artificial trees have become more realistic, and thus, more popular. The early ones tended to resemble a large collection of designer toilet brushes.

My ex-husband was a firefighter, so we always had an artificial tree for obvious reasons. He just didn’t want to bring his work home with him.

As a single mom, I continued that tradition until the year my oldest son came home from college for the weekend with the suggestion we go to a nearby farm and harvest a fresh tree. I was delighted with his idea, imagining a holiday reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting.

After just the right amount of hunting, we captured our verdant prey, brought it home and put it in the garage. My son had to leave for college, so he told his younger brother to bring the piney hostage in the house and put it in the tree stand. I winced, recalling a vision of my parents wrangling a wild tree into submission.

There is definitely an art to the process and I wasn’t sure my 16-year-old son was ready for the challenge. Sure enough, he brought it in the living room, stood it up in the stand — and it played dead.

Santa’s reluctant elf called me at work to explain the feisty fir was resisting domestication. I told him he needed to cut off a couple of branches at the bottom and maybe saw the trunk so it was flat.

When I got home, it was apparent I should have been more specific.

The tree looked like it was wearing a mini skirt. And frankly, I’ve never met an evergreen with the gams to pull that off. Despite the extreme makeover, it still wouldn’t stay erect in the tree stand, hanging what was left of its branches in shame.

Let’s not skirt the issue. This balsam has seen better days. I told him to put the poor thing out on the boulevard and maybe someone will take it home for spare parts. We’ll just put the fake tree up again this year.

My oldest son was not very happy when he heard what happened to his special gift to me. I assured him I didn’t need a tree to make me happy. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

Both my boys are grown now and live out of town. Every year I question whether I want to bother putting up a tree.

But I do it because Christmas trees proudly display all the memories of the past. My trusty artificial tree looks beautiful wearing the ornaments made by my kids, handed down by my parents or given to me by friends.

And regardless of what kind of tree I have, silver stars and frosted pine cones are a much more becoming coniferous fashion statement than a mini-skirt.

(reposted from Christmas 2013 — one of my favorites)

4 Responses

  1. This is one of my favorites, too. I agree about the tree. Now that my kids are grown, I often wonder if putting the tree up is “worth it.” But each year, once it’s done, seeing the ornaments on it from all of the years past is a blessing. Your trees have always been real family trees like mine.
    Super essay – I’m so glad you reposted. It made me smile.

    1. bethdiane

      Thanks! The essay will have to do this year, as my tree is broken as you know — but I will enjoy yours, and make plans for something different next year.

  2. Mary Estrem

    Right on!
    Great post.
    When I first married Daniel, I was all “bah, humbug,” but he went ahead & bought a real tree, & decorated it. For years I said simply “if you want to do the work & decorate the tree, then I’m ok with it.” We also inherited some ornaments from his Mom, which made it more special. But this year he retired and decided perhaps he didn’t want to bother with a tree — and all of a sudden I realized I’d miss it, so it was I who talked HIM into getting a tree!

    1. bethdiane

      I’m glad you liked it! Thanks for sharing your story. I didn’t put up my tree this year because it’s broken. I do miss it, and am trying to enjoy the trees and decorations I encounter other places. I would like to get a simpler, smaller tree for next year, however when I have a helper, real trees are my favorite! I think it’s great you talked Daniel into a tree this time 🙂

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