A ceiling-high evergreen with its sweet forest scent is among my favorite holiday traditions. So it’s a pretty big deal that for the first time in almost fifty years, my home doesn’t boast a “real” Christmas tree.
My attachment to Christmas trees is a cherished hand-me-down from my dad who died much too young when I was twelve. Dad had a knack for scanning the tree lot to pick a tree so full and tall. Even after cutting off a foot or so the trees of my childhood overtook half of our enclosed front porch.
Trimming on Christmas Eve was a hallowed occasion, retelling the history of and thoughtfully placing each ornament—always, always, painstakingly lacing tinsel one strand at a time.
I loved how closing the French doors that led from the enclosed porch into the living room trapped all of that wonderful tree smell inside.
So imagine my distress the year my mother somehow coaxed my dad to “update” to a tacky, silver aluminum tree. In spite of Dad’s efforts to cajole her back to reality and my sibs and me pleading for our real tree, Mom prevailed. Dad reluctantly bought and set up that make-pretend tree. Mom decked each gaudy stickly-excuse for a branch with lore-less, uniform royal blue balls. No delicate teapots or ice cycles or the rare fluorescent lights from Dad’s childhood. The rotating color wheel beaming up from the floor to bath the silver imposter in streams of green, orange, blue, and red, just made it worse.
For months after that sucker came down, my sibs and I staged a Dad-backed revolt. By the next year, Mom relented and we had our real tree back, reassigning the silver imposter to the shuffle board room in the basement.
After my dad died, the silver tree resurrected for a couple of Christmas’s. By the time I was a teen, I seized responsibility for buying and putting up the tree. With the help of my friends, we’d cart a seven-footer the six or eight blocks from the tree lot to our house and have a tree-trimming part on Christmas Eve.
Even when I was single and lived in a third floor walk-up apartment, I found a way to have a real ceiling-high tree.
So why is there a four foot artificial tree, dubbed a “Charlie Brown tree” by our five year old nephew, gracing our living room this year?
For years, my husband Jim has caught a bad “cold” over the holidays. We blamed it on holiday get-together hugging and kissing. I’ve suspected for years it was really an evergreen allergy. Afraid admission would put my holiday tree in an endangered species; I kept my suspicions to myself.
Then last year, his cold progressed to bronchitis. He hacked his way through a steroid dose-pack and two antibiotics without improving. Miraculously, he stopped coughing and sneezing within hours of un-trimming and tossing the tree.
Now, I love real trees, but I love Jim a lot more.
It turns out, our four foot artificial tree is plenty big enough to display the delicate teapot from my Dad’s childhood and the sentimental ornaments Jim and I acquired over the years. We get ample whiffs of evergreen scent from the wreath on our front door. I can have the things I love about a tree, and still take care of what I love the most.
And, isn’t being reminded what we love most what the holidays are really for?