What is it with kids and Christmas trees?
And why do we believe them when they swear up and down they will take care of it if you just let them have it? Have we learned nothing from neglected pets? I mean a Christmas tree is so much easier to care for than a pet….a teapot full of water daily and it’s pretty much done. No walks in sleet and snow, no gag-inducing canned food and kibbles, no stinky poopy-doop that has to be picked up and disposed of.
And yet one week into Christmas tree 2013 and I find myself surreptitiously checking the water level as much because I can’t stand to watch even a once-living thing neglected as because I don’t want my home to burn down. The needles are jumping to their death from the branches, hoping to find water at a lower level. Ironically had this been last year when the water heater gave they might be successful, but the 2013 tree is on higher ground and the new water heater is working fine, thank you very much. So these needles flutter to their arid demise and with every open door or too fast passing from people running late to a long list of holiday parties, they blow like pointy tumble weeds into the heat ducts just waiting for spontaneous combustion.
“The needles are getting crunchy” I exclaim to disinterested ears. I try a firmer tactic “Water the tree now or it’s going outdoors in 10 seconds.” (Every year I only want an outdoor animal feeding-station type of tree bedecked with fresh cranberries and Cheerio chains, popcorn garlands, seed ornaments and the Indian corn I’ve been saving since Halloween.) And then the whining begins “it’s not a real tree if it’s outdoors” Well that’s an interesting argument from an otherwise intelligent kid! “I watered it last time it’s her turn this time. Why do I always have to do it.” And this from a kid who asks not to be treated like a two-year old!
The kids in this house aren’t little either….without giving ages away, let’s just say in a few weeks the younger will be eligible to select who runs our country!
And what about the dad-kid, he argues on behalf of the indoor tree but once in-house so generously says “you know our schedules are crazy, I don’t mind if you put the tree up without me.” Crazy schedules ensue and the unadorned tree listlessly leans against the wall in a plastic utility bucket for a week. Then comes the proclamation “today is the day”. He helps pull down ten thousand boxes and a tree stand from the pull down attic, he helps, as do we all, to set the behemoth in the stand, he checks and untangles light strands and passes them round the tree. Then looks into the tubberware (my name for clear plastic storage tubs) and at antique ornaments and ancient Hummel ornaments that I typically keep upstairs when the littlest kids are staying with us and declares: “these aren’t the right ornaments, I don’t recognize these, these mean nothing to me.” We need the other ten thousand boxes to get the right tree. So back to the attic. After these boxes are brought down, he removes himself from the fray and taps into his smart phone for the weather and Facebook updates as his broken ankle daughter decorates the bottom, his healthy visiting daughter does the middle front, and I sit off to the side like an unrepentant Grinch. The room is a shambles and the fantastically organized storage system that I created using see-through tubs with labeling on all sides (stars, snowflakes and homemade ornaments in this box, lights and garlands in another, antiques and collectibles in another and Christmas stockings and tree skirts) in a cruel turn of fate becomes utter chaos.
But O Shedding Tree is up. I remember it as a beautiful tree, now so generously coated in ornaments and “stuff”. Check out some of our 2013 homemade felt ornaments in the slide show above. And then those beacons to Santa – the lights. This year two long strands of static multi-hued lights get pimped out with a middle strand offering six glorious speeds and patterns including a strobe-light effect guaranteed to induce epileptic episodes.
If I couldn’t have an outdoor tree, my next choice would be a theme, maybe birds, especially the hand carved cardinals I collected, maybe a color, maybe stars and snowflakes as that box is already down from the attic. And there in lies the rub – I see the tree as being something – a boon to animals, an accessory to the home decor, and Jon and kids see the tree as being everything – every crinkled tinfoil angel, every tarnished copper disk, a mix of memories and clutter (someone hung a fashion pin that was tucked in the wrong box), and a symbol of (over) abundance. I want it to be pretty, they want it to be full. I had so many single years when I cultivated my independent tree style, but I have to remember the tree isn’t mine any more; it’s the family tree.
The simple tree I fell in love with at the Farmer’s Market for its beautiful shape and fresh thick needles is done up like Honey Boo Boo on pageant day. But I can still peek around back and the less convenient sides where ornaments are few and remember the tree that was and the animal feeding tree that could have been.
When it’s finally done, we release the Kraken aka Bongo the 20 lb Flemish Giant bunny. He thunders across the needle strewn rug, stretches his hefty body and eats the tree. I think “Oh wow, Christmas miracle, we all got what we wanted” and then I pull him away before he pees in the forest of needles like his wild counterparts.
For ghosts of Christmas trees past, check out my other posts:
No Christmas tree, No Christmas Tree http://wp.me/p13Md6-ES
How Soon is Too Soon to Throw Out The Tree http://wp.me/p13Md6-nX
(c) 2013 by Alison Colby-Campbell