O Tannenbaum

On Friday night, I convinced my dad to help me find a suitable live Christmas tree for my house. I’ve been wanting a live Christmas tree since the year my mom bought an artificial tree, putting a sad end to the tradition my dad and I had made each year of going out to buy a tree. We used to go to McDonald’s afterwards so that I could buy a milk shake. (In my memory, it was always a mint milk shake for some reason, but that doesn’t make any sense because McD’s sells eggnog shakes around Christmas and the minty shake — the Shamrock shake — is a St. Patrick’s Day thing, so my memory must be a little hazed there.)

My husband and I lived in a small condo with barely enough room for the furniture we had in it so we used to put up a little 4′ tree on our breakfast bar and then put the presents underneath it, out of the way between our couch and the breakfast bar. It was all we could do, so it was cozy. But I always told Mike that when we had a bigger house, we were going to make a tradition of buying a live tree. Not to make my mom the villain here. I mean, she was perfectly within her rights and probably quite wise to buy an artificial tree. But, still, I always felt like it was the abrupt end to a wonderful tradition my dad and I shared — one that my brother only got to participate in for one or two years. It was one event of the Christmas holiday that I looked forward too, like the annual trip to the mall my dad took us on to buy my mom presents. I remember that my method of selecting clothes for my mom was to find something purple. It has always been my favorite color, so I imposed my color scheme on her. At least she always could tell who selected a particular item of clothing.

Well, each year since Mike died I’ve reluctantly put up the little 4′ tree after convincing myself that there was no need for me to buy a real tree just because I had room for it. Living alone, no one else would see the tree to appreciate it, I always reasoned. Still, since I had accumulated more ornaments than I had for a tree, I would deck my living room out in lights and ornaments, even though I was the only one to see.

This year, I countered that little voice in my head: Who cares if I’m the only one to see it? It would make me happy. I resolved to ask my dad if he would like to help me find a tree.

As serendipity would have it, my dad e-mailed my brother and me on Thursday this week, explaining that he wanted was available for dinner plans with anyone who wanted this weekend because my mom was out of town. I took this opportunity to follow up on my idea — and forgetting the fact that I’d just paid a $140 speeding ticket and really didn’t need to spend more money — and asked him to help me find a tree.

After all this time, father and daughter got to spend an evening enacting an old tradition. As he had so many times in my early years, my dad inspected the prospective trees for glaring holes and imperfections, also weighing these decisions with the price of the tree. I decided I liked the trees with the long needles. We found a great tree and I happily paid for it.

My dad was pretty patient going to a series of stores — first Target, then Marc’s and finally Lowe’s — to find stands for live trees (they seem hard to find these days!). I bought some of those new LED lights I’ve wanted to get for years — new tree tradition, new lights, I reasoned.

We brought my new tree home and set it up in its stand. Already, I could smell the wonderful aroma of pine filling my living room. Dad and I shared a beer and admired the tree.

I spent the next several hours, after my dad left, decorating the tree. I’m a bit anal about the placement of ornaments, ensuring that all the “like” ornaments were not too close together. I was amazed to discover that I really had accumulated enough ornaments to fill an entire tree! (Who kept giving me ornaments for Christmas?) I even have room to buy another set to add some additional symmetry to the tree.

I’m so happy with my tree, despite Saturday morning mishaps where the tree slumped sideways in its stand. I ended up having to cut some branches off the bottom row of the tree because the branches were preventing the tree trunk from touching the bottom of the tree stand bowl, which, in turn, made the pegs holding it in place less stable. It’s been over 24 hours since the tipping incident and the tree seems to be firmly in place.

My cats were only mildly interested in the tree in that it was a new object in the house. Now that they’ve sniffed it and it’s been there for a day, they’re unimpressed by it. It won’t pet them or give them food, so they find it uninteresting. I even have a few ornaments hanging toward the bottom of the tree and they don’t even seem to be interested in those. I guess it’s nice to have my geriatric cats — they are no longer interested in those “silly” games of the young. (Although, Nicki did decide to attack some beads I was wearing today…)

Since none of my reading audience will probably be able to come by to see my tree during this season, I have posted some pictures. One picture was taken with the flash and features my little Nicki sitting in front of it; the other picture was taken without a flash to show the beauty of the lights.

Will I do this next year? We’ll see. For now, it’s just nice to return to a little bit of the tradition of my youth. This year especially, it seems somehow important to reconnect with those special traditions. I feel like I’m learning everything all over again, seeing my world with new eyes.

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5 thoughts on “O Tannenbaum

  1. Woooowwww!! What a gorgeous tree! I can almost smell the real pine from here!! The lights are so cool. I remember going to buy Dorm Room Lights with my roommate Anita when I attended Wartburg College for a year. We were at Wal-Mart for at least an hour weighing our options. I settled on these gorgous blinking lights that played several songs and blinked in time to the music, and when we put them up, it was magical. I refused to turn on the regular lights after that, and tried to live by Christmas-lights. When I was at the University of Northern Iowa in my brown carpeted-walled dorm room, I put up two different strings of lights (rooms are bigger at U.N.I.), and sat in my recliner eating egg rolls and listening to The Cranberries. I haven’t been able to have a tree much after that, because we take off for Iowa every year, which ironically prevents us from having a family tree here. Sure, we could put one up before we left, but why, when we’d return road-weary and with homework to do in early January, to face this tree we had to take down? (I have a 30-year old fake tree that smells like simulated pine fragrance…a little. I inherited it from my parents when Mom found a 30-foot tall fake tree for the vaulted ceiling in their house.) My fake 30 year old tree is nice and I love the smell, but the plastic is cracking and branches keep falling off.Your tree is GORGEOUS!!!!

  2. I usually manage to put up my fake tree and like you I’m sometimes the only one who gets to look at it. Mine’s getting a little ratty; its vinyl needles are starting to fall off the steel branches and get caught in the carpeting, which sort of defeats the original purpose of having a fake tree. Still, every year it looks more attractive after I see the prices of real trees.Maybe we should form a group of people who live alone but put up Christmas trees and travel to one another’s houses to ooh and ahh over one another’s trees so we can feel like we have more of a reason for bothering to decorate.Bob Whittington

  3. It makes me happy to hear that you are celebrating and really living Christmas this year. Have a glass of wine for Margie and me in the presence of that beautiful tree!

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