Friday, December 09, 2011

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Densely Packed Are Your Branches

I am the kind of person who intentionally travels home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving so that I can spend Sunday getting a tree and decorating for Christmas. I love Christmas. Always have.

To be honest, I’m not actually sure why.

Thinking back to Christmases when I was a kid, I remember a general sense of disappointment. I recall a lot of Christmases not living up to what I thought Christmas should deliver, namely JOY. This is not to say I had a lot of bad times at Christmas.  Some Christmases were downright hilarious, such as the year the tree fell over on top of Grandpa while we were opening presents Christmas morning. (He was fine.)

I can’t remember a single Christmas that was actively terrible. I just don't really remember having a lot of amazing times at Christmas. Christmas was always…just fine.

Perhaps this is why I like to make a bit of pomp and circumstance of it now. I’m optimistic that there can be joy in every Christmas. I refuse to settle for less.

And so, I throw a party.

But before I do that, I need a tree.

The last two years I’ve gotten a tree at Lowe’s. I know, I know. How can a CSA-subscribing, NPR-listening, garbage-composting, water-recycling girl get her Christmas tree at Lowe’s? I guess it’s a little like having a Diet Coke with your Peanut M&Ms.

But this year, I swore it would be different. This year, I swore I’d support a family-owned small-business tree farm.

I got out the tree stand and the boxes of Christmas decorations. I rearranged my furniture to accommodate putting the tree right in the bay of my living room window, so I could see it when walking home from work at night, all lit up. I love that, standing at the corner of my block while waiting for the light to change and looking up to see my tree all glowy and sparkly in the window.

If you want your house to feel like home, I highly recommend walking in the door to a dark room with a lit tree. You should really try it sometime.

Two years ago, I had a three foot tree. It was cute but insufficient. Last year, I had a tree slightly under 5 feet tall, much like myself. But this year, I had more ornaments as a result of all the new places I’ve been in 2011. I felt a larger tree was in order.  A tree taller than me.

The first tree lot I went to had a terrible shortage of trees in my desired five to six foot height range. It was so disappointing. A scotch pine would simply not do.

I moved on, to a slightly less convenient, slightly more sustainable tree lot. I found a beautiful tree, just a hair shy of six feet. I bought him. I brought him home. And here’s what happened.

His trunk was too thick to fit in my tree stand.

I’m not typing this next line, Michael Scott. You know what it is.  

Innuendo aside, after unsuccessful attempts on my part to thin the trunk with a very, very flimsy craft saw, and at one point, with a serrated bread knife, I decided there was no other option than to bring the tree back to the lot and have the trunk shaved down.

Yes, I could have just gotten a new tree stand. But I am very, very stubborn.

I carried the tree back out of my apartment, and threw it back in my car. (This is just one of the many reasons I love my car: no need to tie a tree to the top, I can just throw it in the back. Brilliant.) On the way out my front door I ran into one of my neighbors who observed that at this time of year, most people were going the other direction with their trees.


Christmas trees, you might be surprised to discover, are not a popular item for exchanges. The guys at the tree lot did not know what to do with me, but once I explained the problem, they were quite helpful. One explained to me that they couldn’t shave the sides of the trunk at the base of the tree I’d selected as “the tree drinks through the bark.”

Ok. I’m not, like, a biology major or anything, but I did take a class about the Kingdom Plantae as a freshman in college and while I did fairly poorly in that class (C? C-minus?), I am pretty sure the xylem that helps my tree carry water up itself is not anywhere near the outermost layers of the trunk. But whatever, I was the idiot returning a Christmas tree, I was hardly in a position to argue with the guy. Also, he was holding a chainsaw.

I selected a different six-foot tree with a respectable 4” trunk diameter and was off and running. Again.

My new tree was lovely with sturdy branches at the top that I just knew would be perfect for ornament display. What I didn’t realize was how dense this tree’s branches were, especially the big ones near the middle and the bottom. Much more dense than last year’s McTree.

After two trips to the store for (400) lights to supplement my existing collection, here’s what I was left with:

So that’s not ideal.

It took one more trip and a grand total of 1000 lights to illuminate this bad boy. But it was worth it. I finally got the ornaments up and got to reminisce once again about travels good and bad, recent and past.   

Here are a few of the 2011 additions:

First ever trip to Minnesota in August. I stopped by the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota but the gift shop was closed (I SO WANTED a twine ball ornament!) so I settled for this Mall of America gem.
Work travels took me to upper Wisconsin & Portland this year. Crossing the coast, I picked up this fancy little lobster when I went to Jess & Brian's wedding. The lobster seemed apropos as I think we ate some at every meal that weekend. 
This is my favorite addition to this year's tree. Does it get any better than the Pillsbury Dough Boy popping out of a cake? I think not.
I'm forever indebted to Rae and Jeff for getting married in what is now my very favorite place to ski. I really wanted an ornament with antlers on it but had to settle for this cowboy. I did bring home a full-sized antler, though. Sadly, I did not bring home a full-sized cowboy.
This flip flop from Nicaragua (Adriana & Rob's wedding in February) wins the prize for least expensive ornament of 2011. $1! But it also wins the prize for most expensive plane ticket to acquire said ornament. Nicaragua is far away!
This is Liberace the Sea Lion. He's from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was impossible for me to pass up a blinged out sea lion. Impossible.
 My most recent acquisition, this is from the Akron airport a couple of weeks ago, right before my flight got cancelled and I had to drive myself to Detroit in a hideous thunderstorm. In the process, I got a speeding ticket. FAIL.

And then it was time for a party...

1 comment:

Alessandra said...

This is the three things I took from this:
1) The tree falling on grandpa was epic.
2) Did you name your tree? Why is it a he?
3) You got a C in biology? We aren't related.