Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Tree Hell

Putting up a Christmas Tree at this time of year is a cherished tradition in families across the country and my family is no exception. The distinguishing factor in my family, however, is that putting up the tree is anticipated not with awe, but dread. And that is all because of me.

For some reason, putting up the Christmas Tree brings out the worst in me. I have long held out for having a real tree, not an artificial one. So every year we go to one of the local stores, pick one out (when the children were younger, we would go cut one down), bring it home and put it up.

Would that it were that simple.

I really thought it went well last weekend when we got it in the house and in the stand. After a few maneuverings, it stood in the stand with no exterior wires. Mission accomplished. The Season of Good Cheer had officially arrived.

But about an hour later I noticed Wife was not cheerful. Most men know when they are at fault for their wives being a bit out of sorts. And, just like always, I had to go through the "What's wrong?" - "Nothing." - "No, really." - "Nothing." - "OK" - "Well if you don't know . . ." ordeal before finally figuring out I had once again offended her while carrying out the family tradition.

While lying on the floor turning the little screws on the tree stand with one hand and trying to hold the tree erect with the other, with her saying, "Turn it just a little, no that's not it, no it's still leaning, no, maybe you need to cut off a little branch, no, it's just not right, well, if you want a tree that's leaning," apparently I asked her to "hush." No, apparently it was more of a command.
Honestly, I don't remember it. But neither do I deny it. For, as I said, something about bringing a live tree in the house sends me into a funk.

I appropriately apologized and was forgiven. Wife's nothing if not understanding (and she has been down this road before).

The best way to explain myself is to print my Christmas letter of 2002. I have written our family Christmas letter for a number of years now. I always try to make it more of a humorous, satirical piece, to give the recipients a little comic relief amidst the ones that pour in touting the various accomplishments of the author or the author's family, particulary the author's unusually bright and outstanding children.

So, here it is, from six years ago, with my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season:

December 2002

We continue to follow the cherished family holiday traditions. Here's a rundown from my journal of what we affectionately call, at our house, Christmas Tree Hell:

Sunday, Dec. 1: We take the whole family to Home Depot to get the tree. They are already sold out (on December 1st?!) except for the pitiful Charlie Brown trees. We go to a lot that would have required me to put a second mortgage on our home in order to purchase a tree there. I suggest we go to Kroger. Daughter says she won't allow tree from Kroger (??). Wise wife says let's wait a couple of days for Home Depot to get second shipment.

Tuesday, Dec. 3: Wife and children come home from Home Depot with tree that would indicate that second shipment came from Redwood Forest. Not to worry, Wife says, observing my look of unbelief. She has purchased the "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand," with "One Person Setup" -- what we have always needed, she says. Picture on box shows smartly dressed woman in high heels placing tree in stand, using her foot to adjust the patented swivel feature which dares any tree not to stand straight. Yes, Dear, I say, this year will be different, even though trunk of tree is near my waist size.

Wednesday, Dec. 4: Almost 17-year-old son and I carry Christmas Tree into house. (If the gal in the picture on the box could do this by herself, she shouldn't be modeling for Christmas Tree stand boxes; she should be a body builder). I ask children not to videotape this event as in years past as it could be used against me should our state ever allow children to divorce parents. Wife prepares "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand." Son and I lift and heave. Miracle doesn't happen. Tree falls to floor. Wife reads instructions. Oh, she says, we forgot to trim the trunk so it will "wedge" into stand. I wonder if maybe Wife should have dressed more like woman on the box. I utter words under my breath and go get my saw. Younger two children fight back tears and retreat to playroom. Son and I begin to make tree trunk resemble "wedge." Room resembles forest as sawdust and needles blanket carpet. I lean back against the wall in exhaustion, perspiration pouring. Hours later, Wife again prepares "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand," we heave and hoist, Wife "swivels" stand pursuant to instructions and lo and behold, Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, it really is a miracle, the tree stands. I have triumphed over nature. No need to tie it to the wall this year, I say. Maybe just for security, doubting Wife says. NO!!! I say . . . sweetly.

Thursday, Dec. 5: Family decorates tree. Angel is placed on top. All three children comment that tree seems to be leaning. Don't be cute, I say. Angel looks like she is about to take flight, or nosedive, from top of tree.

Friday, Dec. 6: Wife hosts church staff Christmas dinner at our home. Christmas Tree stands majestically, beautiful lights and ornaments hanging gracefully as fifty people gather 'round. I get choked up as I smugly relate how easily it went up this year, thanks to my skill and the "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand."

Sunday, Dec. 8: Tree has survived the weekend. I deny hearing creaky popping sounds from that end of the room that children point out. I threaten to return their Christmas presents if they continue to make reference to tree leaning.

Tuesday, Dec. 10: Angel at top of tree at right angle, pleading with us to give her some relief if she is to reign over Christmas this year. In private I get the ladder and put her out her misery. Again, I deny hearing any kind of creaking or popping sound as I lift her off the tree. I tell Wife I'm giving angel a rest and will put her back up at a later time.

Wednesday, Dec. 11: Wife calls me at work at 10 a.m. Tree has fallen to floor, she says, smashing lights and ornaments. What to do, she asks. I'll come home, I say, tree will be thrown into back yard, "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand" will be returned with instructions on what they can do with it and we will purchase a fake tree, or have no tree at all. God never intended for us to have trees in our houses in the first place, I say. Stay at work, she says, we'll deal with it tonight. When I arrive at home, I observe tree lying prostrate on the floor and decide once again that it will not defeat me. Armed with wire, hooks, nails and a hammer, son and I pick it up, put it back into former miracle stand, and it is wired to the nail in the wall as in years past.

Thursday, Dec. 12 (today): Christmas Tree stands naked in our den as we try to muster our enthusiasm for decorating it again. Wife says we will one day laugh about it. Children will remember annual battle between Christmas Tree and crazed father as highlight of Christmas season.

If anyone in the world should surrender to an artificial tree, it is yours truly. But by this time next year this will be a faded memory and we'll do it again. I shall return.


And yes, we've done it every year since. I will say it has gotten better and we have finally learned to pick out more reasonably sized trees. Only one real disaster since 2002, and that year we finally surrendered and used an artificial tree that Wife's parents had handed down to us. We had about 80 dollars' worth of greenery from the mammoth real tree that just refused to participate.

Saying "hush" to Wife only one time during the whole process this year, and that being the extent of the tension, is progress, my friends. Merry Christmas -- and a joyous Christmas Tree -- to all.


Debby said...

Oh, how I laughed. In my house, the menfolk sit on the sofa watching football and women decorate the tree. Sometimes I get grumpy and make them help. Sometimes they do, never taking their eyes from the TV screen. I finish the decorating preaching myself a little serman on forgiveness.

Kelly said...

Oh, Bob... I'm laughing all over again! This was one of my favorite Christmas letters.

We've used artificial trees since I was 10 years old. The closest I've gotten to live greenery is the live wreath I purchased for several years to adorn the wall in my living room (and had to continually mist so it wouldn't dry out!).

Merry Christmas to your and yours, too!

Hal Johnson said...

Funny funny funny. Christmas trees have more than once prompted me to use colorful language.

Bob said...

Kelly, Susan is really into the live stuff -- on the mantle and door. She cuts magnolia leaves from our neighbor's yard and uses those too. Of course as we get close to New Year's guess who's cleaning up all the dried stuff???

Pam said...

I am almost on the floor rolling with laughter!! I'm visualizing the Griswolds from "Vacation".

I've had both real and real-looking. I"ll take the real-looking.

What I will NEVER have again is the pre-wired tree. What a rip-off!! A nightmare to assemble and a real you-know-what when a light, somewhere on it, burns out.

I usually have to do all the decorating, inside and out, solo. The bigger challenge for me is the outside lights. I've been known to break down in tears and hurl things. As I live on a corner lot this can be interesting to passing cars.

We've had dogs and kids, in years past, that tackled trees with frightening results.

All said and done, I love Christmas decorations, once up. Love your photo!!!

Redlefty said...

Gotta love it!

I really like that you put that in the Christmas card.