O Christmas Tree

Growing up, we had very special traditions attached to our Christmas tree. It was always real, and it was always got it on Mike’s birthday.
Mike was born on December 13th, and every year for his birthday, Mom and Dad would take him to a Christmas Tree lot, and he would pick out OUR tree. Generally by the 13th of December, you had to really look through the trees to find a good one, and Mike was just the man for the job. To this day, he remains a man of impeccable taste -always seeing the details in everything. It’s a kind of gift he has, and we all love him for it. That gift is what makes him good at anything he puts his mind to: cabinetry, furniture refinishing, photography, model car building, wood working, home repairs, mechanics… you name it, he’s great at it. I even had him thread a sewing machine a few times for me in high school.

Mike always found the best tree in the lot, and we couldn’t wait to decorate it. Mom would pull out her big red box with white snowflakes printed on it, and we would all wait in an impatient line as she pulled decorations out of it -one by one.
My mom’s trees were the homemade kind -construction paper and clay ornaments dot the tree along with wooden hand-painted reindeer and a plastic singing snowman that just about drove my mother to insanity.
With each ornament we pulled out, we would all start in with “remember when…” and by the time the tree was done, we would put our leftover exuberant energy into sheer admiration.
With Mom’s homemade gingerbread house in one corner of the room, light glowing from its windows, and our real tree close by… our living room was the absolute epitome of Christmas. It smelled JUST like Christmas should -no need for scented plug-ins or Gold Canyon Candles.
At night, we’d lie under our tree and look up at the multi-colored lights… and we’d dream of Christmas morning -the MAGIC of Christmas morning.

You’d think I’d never want for anything more.
But I am a GIRL after all.

Truth be told, I’d go just about MAD waiting for December 13th to come around. I mean, ALL OF MY FRIENDS had their fake trees up and they were all decorated like the trees in the magazine -matching ornaments all around!
When I got married, I vowed to get a fake tree to put up the DAY after Thanksgiving. And how I wanted a fake tree with plain white lights and matching ornaments! About 5 years into our marriage, we finally had enough money one year to grant my heart’s desire.
Boy, you should have seen just how FAST I could get a Christmas tree up. I was all glee over the pre-litness of my tree, and I donned it’s branches with red and gold ball ornaments and bows. It. Was. Glorious.

I am a girl.

I sometimes forget that my husband cares about these kind of things. Some husbands don’t, you know. Mine is the special sort that takes a great interest in The Things at Home. This year, he bravely came to me and timidly asked if we might… maybe… sorta… getaREALtree?
He told me of his Christmases of yesteryear, of the scent of his real Christmas trees and how he loved the multi-colored lights.
Bollocks, I thought. I guess this Christmas I wouldn’t be indulgent. This meant no tree up the day after Thanksgiving. This meant multi-colored lights.

Three days ago, I frantically called around for a babysitter and -through a direct answer to a pleading and urgent prayer -was able to secure one (who wants to spend 8 hours shopping with a 4 year old and a potty training 3 year old?). Saturday morning, my husband and I spent the day Christmas shopping together. The last thing on our list?

We stopped in at a nursery and found their Christmas trees to be the BEST we’d ever seen. For just $30, we found the most beautiful real Christmas tree I’ve ever seen. The man who helped us load it onto the car had only moved to the pines 3 weeks earlier -just before the big snowstorm a few weeks ago. Having moved from New Orleans, it was the first time he’d ever experienced snow, and what a way to experience it! Tons and tons and TONS of it.
The kids had no idea we were coming home with a tree, and they were thrilled. Because we didn’t have anywhere to cut it, we plopped it down on the dining room table.
My husband set to sawing off an inch at the bottom so it would take in water.

My son stepped up when Daddy’s arm needed a break:

Unbeknownst to us, we had purchased multi-colored twinkling lights for the tree.
They’re LED.
They are bright.
And twinklee.
Does anyone know how to stop twinkling lights from twinkling? They’re about to drive us all bonkers!

After getting the tree (mostly) straight and propping it up with my parents old tree stand (they’ve graduated to a fake tree. “Dang thing looks like it was made outta green pipe cleaners”), we set to decorating it.
The kids were literally hopping all around -like festive overgrown jumping beans. Their energy was positively bursting out of their bodies.
“Settle down,” I instructed, as I pulled out a big red tub (no snowflakes). One by one, I pulled out ornaments.
By now, my toddlers had made good use of the matching red and gold ornaments. Some were long broken and thrown away, some were lost, some were scratched and worn.
But as we’d lost ornaments, we’d also gained ornaments, hand made by my preschool girl. We’d bought a few along the way as well.
And what would you know?
Years after vowing to myself I’d do it my own way, I found myself sitting on the couch, handing ornaments one-by-one to waiting (hopping) children and saying, “Remember when all we could afford was this on our first Christmas together?”

I handed the ornament, now very worn and slowly fading, to my husband who put it on our real tree, complete with multi-colored lights.
What’s more: I loved it. I felt suddenly like a little kid again, and my entire house SMELLED like it was supposed to at Christmas time.
“Remember this?”

“We just had to get her something, and that was all we could afford. And of course we couldn’t leave the boy out when his turn came along:”
We pulled out ornaments that had been gifted to us by friends, far and near. We laughed at the boy who found a favorite spot on the tree and stuck to it:

I dug through the ornaments as fast as I could without being careless to find my favorite ornament of all time… the very first ornament we’d purchased as a married couple.
It’s a plastic ship (made to look like a glass ship, of course). We bought it on a ship (imagine that!) on our honeymoon. We took an entire day of our honeymoon and toured 4 historic ships in a harbor. It ended up being our favorite day, and we’ll never forget it… especially because one of those ships just happened to be the ship used for the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (one of my all time favorite movies AND the movie my then-fiance had just bought for me for my birthday. He also threw in the Soundtrack to the movie, a pair of red shoes, a pink blanket, and the movie Hidalgo -the movie we saw on our first date. All of this added up to him being the BEST BOYFRIEND EVER).
I look forward to our ship ornament every year.

You were right, Mom. All these years, you had the right idea.

It bothered me that I couldn’t set my tree up RIGHT after Thanksgiving, but after a day or so, I got over it.
And you know what? It didn’t make much of a difference to me that we didn’t get a tree up until the 10th.

Next year will technically be “my” year. I can put up a fake pre-lit tree the day after Thanksgiving if I want.
But I don’t know if I want to now.

But someone please. Come and help our star.
“That STAR is crooked!”

I took our camera with us on our shopping day, fully intending to get a million pictures of the husband and I, but the only picture I got of us on Saturday is the one my son took after the tree was up and decorated.
My teeth look horrifying.

The boy isn’t much of a photographer, but he tried hard. What he IS… is a clown. He does that job without even trying.


  1. So awesome. That brought back a lot of memories. I remember going up to your house and seeing the beautiful Christmas tree with all of the tinsel. I thought it was the pertiest thing. :)

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