Putting up a Christmas tree at our house has long been a bittersweet process. Sadly, it has often been more bitter than sweet.
The first time my children heard me use a bad word was many years ago when I was trying to get a tree to stand. To make it an even better experience, the moment was captured on video.
Before you get all self-righteous on me, I will tell you I apologized. And I erased the tape.
But if my offspring go to counseling for anything regarding their upbringing, it just might be over Christmas trees.
And no, I’m not proud of that, but thanks for asking.
I don’t know what it is, whether it’s a lack of understanding of the laws of physics or what, but getting a Christmas tree into a stand, getting it to stand straight, and having it stay there for the duration of the season eluded me for many years.
More than a few times we would decorate a tree on a December evening, only to wake the next morning and see said tree lying on the floor.
Ever the optimist, by the following evening my wife would pick up the broken ornaments and try to get things back in order, and I would return the, uh, darned tree to an upright position. Imagine my surprise when my children lost interest in decorating the tree again after this happened a couple of times.
The house where my children spent the better part of their growing-up years, and where my wife and I still reside, has a good-sized family room with a vaulted ceiling, conducive to large, tall trees.
But just because I have a high ceiling does not mean I have to have a tree that touches it, even though at one time I would have disagreed with that. The first couple of Christmases in our house were perhaps the worst, including the Christmas when I finally gave up and threw the tree off the back deck.
(That might or might not have been the year the nail in the wall, which was holding fishing line around the tree trunk in an attempt to keep the tree erect, gave way, pulling drywall with it.)
Having long been proponents of live trees, my spouse and I surrendered that year and used an artificial one her parents had passed on to us.
Christmas came and went, and nobody seemed to mind that the tree in the corner came out of a box. One would think that would have been the year we turned a corner.
Not a chance. We have had a live tree ever since.
For a few years the battles continued. In addition to anchoring trees to the wall with nails and fishing line, I would prop magazines under the tree stand to give the appearance the tree was standing straight. Alas, the angel at the top of the tree, looking as if she would soon give flight, routinely shattered that illusion.
A few years ago, I found a five-prong tree stand that has worked much better than the dozen-or-so others I have owned. I’m not saying there are still not some glitches here and there as I drag a massive piece of greenery into the house, but that tree stand has helped considerably.
And maybe I’ve matured and don’t get so worked up over it anymore. It’s a nice thought, anyway.
This year, with my wife’s illness and the loss of her parents that I wrote about last week, and not knowing how we might be feeling about Christmas preparations, I made an executive decision. (Believe me when I say I don’t do that often.)
The week after Thanksgiving I went to a nearby Christmas tree lot, one you would likely be familiar with that is especially proud of their trees – hence the handsome price tags.
Not only did I pay their asking price for a nine-footer, I also scheduled delivery and setup for an additional fee. A few days ago, two guys appeared at my door saying they were here with the tree I had purchased.
They had the brilliant idea of putting it in the stand while still outside, then bringing it into the house. Don’t ask why I never thought of trying that.
In a matter of minutes, after a couple of adjustments, the tree was standing straight as could be.
As they were leaving, one of them offhandedly said I might want to consider buying a new tree stand, that the one I had seemed a bit worn out. And what do you know? They sell premium tree stands at their lot, right along with the premium-priced trees. He said I could buy one when I come get my tree next year.
In other words, he was obviously saying, if you’re willing to pay what you did for this tree and having us deliver it, certainly you can up your game in the tree stand department.
Rather than telling him I’d been putting up trees since long before he was sitting on Santa’s lap, I smiled and thanked him.
Apparently the executive decision I made came not only with a hefty cost, but also unsolicited advice.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].