Weekly Column: What a tree!

©Stephenie Freeman

Like a lot of people, I’ll be busy this weekend decorating my home for Christmas. The Halloween candy is half gone and the turkey bones are in the trash which means it’s time to get busy and hang a little tinsel on the tree.

I think the kind of Christmas tree you have says a lot about you.

Are you real or fake? Are you full and round or are you skinny and scrawny? Are you decorated by designers or have your kids gotten a hold of you? Are you glitzy, covered in fancy ornaments or are you simple, with cherished homemade ones from your kids?

I think our family tree is a little bit of all of the above. Well, except for the real part. Our tree is about as fake as they come.

As a kid, our Christmas trees were always flocked. They were real trees, but they were always covered in thick, white foam that my dad would spray on in the garage that would make them look fake. This left me very confused as a small child. Did it matter if we watered it? Covered in all of that flock, would anyone know the difference if it dried out? It was all very confusing and the mono-chromatic, shiny gold ornaments that covered it from top to bottom only made it worse.

I grew up with a Christmas tree that looked like it belonged to Donald Trump.

Regardless, I loved going to buy our tree. Around the first of December, we’d find the strip mall parking lot with the tree lot that seemed worthy of our forty bucks.

It was hard to pass by the Charlie Brown trees. Like puppies at the pound, I wanted to take each and every one of them home. They looked so pitiful; it was hard to think of these poor trees sitting in the parking lot all season. I’d walk by each one whispering, “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll find a good home soon” and tried my best not to look at the wood chipper hidden behind the tree seller’s truck.

After lots of looking, we’d find a tree that wasn’t too big or too scrawny. And after a precarious ride home and a short battle with the tree stand, our tree was finally ready for the big event.

My mom made sure that the lights went on first—small white ones. My grandmother’s tree however—a tall, dry, scrawny version of Charlie Brown’s—always had those fat multi colored bulbs that were supposed to be for outdoor use only. I would sit, quietly unwrapping presents, waiting in fear that the whole thing might go up in flames at any second.

Lucky for us, it never did. The only thing on fire was the egg nog which had a little too much whisky in it.

This year we’ll have two Christmas trees in our house. One of the trees will be known as the breakable “do not touch” tree. The other tree will be for the kids to decorate however they want, which means I won’t have to stay up late redecorating the tree after the kids have long gone to bed.

Last year, I got caught in my tree redecorating.

“Mom, what happened to the tree? It’s not the same.”

“Oh didn’t you know? Sometimes Santa’s elves come and change things around so Santa won’t break anything when he brings in his big sack full of your presents. You wouldn’t want Santa to be unable to deliver your presents because of a few broken ornaments do you?”

My boys didn’t go near that tree again until Christmas morning. Even then they asked for permission before getting too close.

I can’t wait to see what they’ll do to their own tree this year. When it comes to tree decorating, people usually fall into one of two camps, either the “less is more” camp or the “bigger is better” camp. Unfortunately for me, my children fall into the “if bigger is better, then humongous is fabulous” camp.

It’ll take all of my motherly willpower not to sneak in there in the middle of the night to redecorate it, but I wouldn’t want to get into trouble. If I’m not careful, Santa might not bring me what I want for Christmas this year.

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