When I was little, the exact date of the arrival of our Christmas tree was always an unknown. Being influential at that time, I came to understand the appearance of our tree would be a mystery of sorts – stretching out well into December.
We’d end up with a tree eventually, but rarely as soon as my friends had received theirs. And decorated them.
My mom had a philosophy the tree had to remain alive well into the New Year. Her explanation was we had to wait as long as possible to get one so it would last. She always assumed it would. Her parents likely did much the same. We learn from our parents, don’t you know?
In retrospect, Mom’s theory of stretching out the purchase date is a funny way to think about it. The tree lot trees are cut well before Thanksgiving and shipped to selling lots to be available for all those day-after-Thanksgiving decorators. Especially in the shops-on- the-corner where we’d end up buying our trees. The trees always appeared to be losing needles right there before we bought them. It would’ve been a Christmas miracle had they ever survived well past December 25th. No amount of fresh water brings the tree back to life, it just sustains it for a little while.
As a child, waiting patiently for our tree to arrive and listening to other children talk about their trees, I was envious. As they recited tales about how their family traipsed through the snow. And how they’d even had time to sip hot cocoa while picking it out at the tree farm. Jealousy is a sad thing when you’re a child. All of it put me a bit on tenterhooks knowing our tree was still standing in some lot, somewhere dying a slow death. It was stressful, to say the least.
But somehow, some way, we always ended up with a tree. Sometimes, the Charlie Brown look made the cut. Other times, snow flocking helped hold (clump) the needles together. And some years, when dad picked it out early (it was a deal spot on the corner no doubt), we had a traditional looking tree. I even got to ride along a year or two to help pick it out.
But, we always decorated it together. Sometimes even while sipping hot cocoa. And mom bought us a new ornament each year to remind us of our treasured childhood Christmas traditions. I still adore those moments and the ornaments.
When my husband and I were first married, we picked out a real tree and decorated it together – the day after Thanksgiving. No kidding, I was a tad skeptical if it would survive until Christmas knowing what I understood to be true from my youth. He reassured me it would survive. And he was right, it did just fine.
No different from my childhood though, at the end of the tree season, it was messy. Those darn needles were still on the carpet, magically reappearing, well into the spring no matter how often we vacuumed.
The next year, when we moved into our new house, we decided a faux tree was going to be less messy and save us money in the long run. So the decades of annually assembling our tree, on-time, began.
Each year, I stress a bit as more and more needles fall while I fluff and bend the branches and stick them strategically where I want them to be. Creating the perfect tree. Even though I know, I still wonder what will it look like in the end? Will it be crooked or straight? My anxieties of youth flash back at me as I assemble our tree and watch the needles sprinkle the floor. Man…it sheds while I’m decorating, and will shed again during the takedown too. Double the wrong type of gifts that keep on giving well into the spring.
Hmm…the faux tree is kind of like the trees in the corner lot. How long will we wait until it looks Charlie Brown like enough before we buy real again?
Only time will tell…we’re stretching it out again another year. An extra dose of tinsel always does the trick to cover up imperfections.