O’ Tannenbaum

It’s going to have to come down at some point. It just has to.

The Christmas Tree is still sitting prominently in our living room, still covered in ornaments passed down to me from my child hood, garland and white lights that I must confess, I have switched on as I write this. I love the idea of a Christmas Tree and think that they are easily the very best part of the European Christmas tradition.. with some very serious caveats.

In the past, I’ve had mixed feelings about “The Tree”. Though it’s undoubtedly the centerpiece of most of my Christmas memories, I always felt a bit uneasy around that bit of forest we had dragged into our home and festooned with lights and baubles.

I have early memories of crunching through thin snow in a vast field of nearly identical little evergreen trees. My parents would walk along looking from left to the right and then to the left again, looking for just the right tree to come home with us and get us in the holiday mood. The big, red bow saw that my father carried both intrigued and spooked me with it’s elongated, almost grotesque teeth. As far as I can recall, this was the only time this particular tool had work to do each year. The curved fangs of the blade would bite into the trunk of the selected conifer, bringing it down with a few good pulls and minimal grunting from under the skirt of low bows as my father lay on the frozen ground, trying to get Mom and me to push the tree one way or another in an effort to keep it from pinching the blade.

Hauled by its trunk, we’d pull it to the car and lash it to the roof, leaving a little stump behind us and a patch of snowless ground. It made me uneasy. It’s not that I didn’t understand that these trees were planted here for the express purpose of cutting for Christmas. It just always struck me as a bit sad to see the hole it left in the otherwise neat rows of green, prickly soldiers who remained.

tree-farm

Then, it was time to head home. This brought on the next problem. When I was little, my job mostly consisted of staying out from underfoot, or at the most, closing the front door after Dad, swearing lightly… or perhaps not so lightly, wrestled the reluctant tree through the entryway. As I got older, my new job was to HELP Dad wrestle the tree in. This sounds like a good idea until you watch the chaos unfold. One of us would get the drippy, pinesap covered end and would be walking backwards. The other would have the highly fragile, infinitely pincushingly, pointy end and would be able to see nothing as they stumbled up the stairs, often times, accidentally causing the trunk end holder to stumble backwards and loose his balance.

Now there were two of us swearing.

Once inside, we needed to get it up and secured. We had one of those ancient pressed metal stands with the four long screws and somehow it was always me who got the under the tree duty. I’d lay on my stomach or side, trying not to notice how heavy my head was getting and how crampy my neck was tighten as many of the bolts as fast as I could while loose needles trickled down my neck. More swearing was often needed at this point.

“A little more to the left”
“No. That’s too much now”
“Come forward now”
“TOO MUCH! Back it up a bit”
“I think it’s still leaning to the left. Don’t you?”

That taken care of, the decorating would begin. This, I enjoyed! Getting out the ornaments was like opening up a treasure chest. I had made some, some came from friends and relatives and others were from my parent’s days predating me. I loved seeing them after a long year in the basement and other than the expected pickings from the tree, I enjoyed putting them up.

The needles were my bane. I lived in a shoe-free house. All footwear came off at the door and I spent most of my time at home in socks. The room our tree was always set up in had a deep pile carpet and the needles just seemed to lie in wait for me to go padding by and yelp as a sap tipped assassin jumped at its chance to strike at its captor. It seemed like no matter how much vacuuming was done, some of these little buggers would make it through and lie low, patiently biding their time. Months later, they still would get me and send me hobbling to the sofa to extract them from the bottom of winter softened souls.

The final piece that didn’t sit well was when we tossed it. You’d think that after all the struggling to get it in and set up and then the indignities of having to pluck it’s quills from the bottom of my feet, that I’d be happy to see it go, but mostly, it made me kind of sad. I’d look out of the window and see it flung on the snow back by the road, waiting for the city to take it away. It was obviously too small to be milled into anything and too green to burn so it was destined to be mulch. It was just going to go to waste.

I hate waste.

One time in particular, I recall looking at an abandoned tree and seeing something glint from within its branched. When I went out to inspect, I found a missed ornament. It was a little golden pear that a friend had given my parents. After that, I was far more vigilant when it came to stripping the tree of its medals prior to being drummed out of the house. I still have the little pear ornament and can see it now glinting in the small white lights on my own tree.

Tonight I’ll take it down and strip my tree of its glory, but I’m not worried about forgetting something buried deep in its braches. I may miss one, naturally, but it will be safe until next year. My tree will fold up like a green, furry umbrella and fit neatly back in its box. It’s a fake. A good fake, to be sure, but fake nonetheless. My Mother still thinks that it’s awful to skip having the real deal, but I’m happy with it. I can leave those little trees out in the field for someone else to pick and since my tree comes apart, I don’t need to stuff it through the door jam as I turn the air blue. The best part is the needles are soft and permanently attached. Little feet in footy pajamas are safe, as are my own.

Interestingly enough, the old, red bowsaw that felled so many Christmas trees hangs in my own basement now. I have to admit. I have no idea the last time I used that thing. If the trees attack though, I’m ready.

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