“Real Christmas trees are better than fake ones,” Richard told me 24 years ago as we celebrated our first Christmas. I had grown up with artificial trees and mentally dismissed his comment. But I bought him a small artificial tree with ornaments for his apartment because he had none, and I insisted every home needed the Christmas spirit.
When we married 22 years ago, we continued to use the 5 foot artificial one I had had in my apartment, as well as the one I gave him, and the mini artificial trees. My husband missed the scent of real trees.
Some day, we would have a real one. Twenty years ago, when a local store called Phar Mor was closing, I bought a close out Christmas tree “so we would be ready.” It went into our ornament storage bins. But each year, we looked at the price of a real tree and compared it to just using what we had, and we chose the artificial tree.
When our home and business burned 13 years ago, we replaced that artificial tree with a bigger one I got on sale at 3 a.m. on Black Friday. So we had more room for our growing ornament collection. Most of our ornaments were either made by our kids or are keepsakes of them and about them. We also have a collection of Misfit Toy ornaments I adore.
Each year, we saw the tree stand and decided to “wait till next year” for the real tree.
One year for a 4-H project, my daughter made a Christmas tree skirt which turned into the sewing project from hell. I sew with a staple gun, but her grandmother is a seamstress. It’s quilted, with beading, stitching, and tassels. It won a special merit. But the skirt was larger than our tree was wide. It was so nice we put it in a special box and put it away to “wait till we have a bigger tree.”
Last year, after my heart attack and surgery, I wasn’t up to putting up our tree. So I sat and watched our kids put up and decorate the tree. I couldn’t help but loved every minute of it. We got out Elizabeth’s tree skirt she had made. I realized there was no point in saving it for the some day perfect year.
This year, I wanted Christmas to be special after everything we went through. We had scraped border from our living room and kitchen to repaint them. I wanted them repainted so Christmas decorations would be beautiful. Except we hadn’t had time to get the painting done.
This year, I bought a can of pine spray to spray so Richard would be reminded of scents of Christmas childhood when he had a real tree.
I finally relented that the painting would happen after Christmas, and the tree needed to go up. So our kids again put up the Christmas tree and decorated it.
Then, two days ago, a friend posted on Facebook that her son’s Boy Scout troop (280 in Henderson, Kentucky) had a close out sale on real trees at their lot. They had 5 trees left. The price was too good to pass up. So I asked her to hold a 6 foot tree for us. Then I texted my kids to find the tree stand we’ve stored for 20 years. We worked out a plan that we would drive our 22-year-old station wagon to Kentucky after I got off work, strap it to the tree a la Christmas Vacation, and surprise Richard.
I had visions of getting the tree into the house, undecorating our artificial tree, and decorating the new, beautiful real tree as a family while watching Christmas Vacation.
The kids couldn’t find the tree stand. We planned via text because we wanted to keep the surprise. So when I got off work, Elizabeth went with me to Kentucky. We told Richard we were Christmas shopping. We slipped out in the old wagon, ready to begin our adventure.
Fifteen minutes later, we were in Kentucky at the Boy Scout tree lot. Three trees were left. When I got out, the guy said, “I haven’t seen that here before.”
“A crazy old lady driving here from Indiana?” I asked.
“No, a station wagon. You just don’t see those any more. I see crazy ladies all the time,” he answered. He suggested we try fitting the tree IN the car instead of ON the car. So I climbed in the car, knocked down the middle row of seats, and we tried putting the tree into the car. At the right angle, he was able to fit the tree into the wagon. It was just a bit inconvenient because the top of the tree came up into the divider between the front seats and covered the rear view mirror. But if we drove a straight show, and I didn’t have to change lanes or go backwards, we should be fine.
Except we didn’t have a tree stand. There was a Rural King a mile down the road in Henderson, so we stopped there next. I pulled all the way into a parking place so I wouldn’t have to back out afterwards. I didn’t want to waste time – we had a tree to decorate! I felt like a reality show taping the Biever Christmas Vacation episode. I went to the counter and asked, “Do you have tree stands?”
The lady didn’t know, so she asked on the store’s public address system, “Do we have tree stands for a Christmas tree?”
One person called back on speaker phone. “There is ONE left in the store.”
“Where is it?” I asked. They gave us directions to the lone tree stand. When we found it in the Christmas decoration aisle, it looked bigger than the one I had stored for 20 years, and it had no price. No matter. I didn’t want to shop other places with a tree in my car.
My daughter discouraged my urge to buy new ornaments to celebrate the new tree. When I wanted to press the button on the Christmas duck that sang carols, she whispered to me, “Mom, stop it. Act right.”
I told her, “YOLO.”
She answered, “Can’t you at least say ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day)? You’re the one who taught us Latin when we were little.”
I told her, “When I’m in Rural King in Kentucky buying a tree stand while the station wagon’s full of tree, it’s YOLO.”
Elizabeth had to hold the tree stand in her lap while I drove home. Clark Griswold, eat your heart out.
When we got home, Nick came out and helped us get the tree into the house. In the driveway, he learned of my plan. We would move the decorated tree to the side, replace it with the real tree, and then take off all the lights and ornaments to decorate the real tree. He responded with the joy of Clark Griswold’s son.
When we got the tree into the house, we realized it wasn’t a 6 foot tree. It was about 6 inches taller than our 9 foot ceilings. So Nick got shears from the garage and trimmed off the tip to of it so it would fit in the room. I ordered pizza for our Christmas Vacation tree decoration party.
Richard ventured upstairs as he heard my laughter. Yes, he was astounded that we now had a real tree – and 2 trees in our living room.
Nick had helped friends put up a real tree and knew more about it than I did. He said we should get the tree put up and then let it set so the branches would go down. First I heard of that.
Well, the pizza was ordered. So we got the tree standing and had pizza without the tree decorations. Yesterday, while I was at work, they put the lights on the real tree and undecorated the fake tree. They took apart the fake tree and put it away.
Last night was a Friday night, and of course my teen-aged children weren’t home. So Richard and I had our own tree decoration party, complete with a fat free bean dip/salsa blend I made with just a sprinkle of light cheese on top. And yes, we watched Christmas Vacation. It was a perfect date night.
The real tree does smell nice. I’m enjoying watching Richard enjoy the real tree. He’s told me for the first time ever, our home smells like Christmas, even in the living room that will get painted after first of the year.
Our tree this year is wilder than in years past. It’s not a perfect plastic tree. It took a little extra work to get it to stand straight, and it will shed a few needles each day. But it’s fuller and richer. There is no theme to our ornaments other than Misfit Toys made beautiful. Where others see misfits, I see potential. And it blends right in to the real life of all the ornaments from our family’s life the past 20 years. And having the tree skirt our daughter made underneath just completes it.
The lesson behind all this is either YOLO or Carpe Christmas Tree. Seize the Christmas tree moments in your life right now. Don’t wait until things are perfect because perfect never gets here. What we have is now. Enjoy it in all its imperfection.
Life is beautiful!