So, I’ve spent the past week or so putting up the Christmas tree. I know that seems like an inordinately long stretch of time for one task, but that’s life at the end of a semester. Plus, there are so many steps involved in putting up a tree — important steps, ones that I don’t want to complete if my attention span is ticking down to its final seconds. Since it took a week to put up, I thought the tree deserved a series of reflective posts — lessons from a Christmas tree.
The first lesson isn’t really one that I learned; it’s a lesson that I’m going to give my readers about me. I’m judgmental. There I’ve confessed it. I judge Christmas trees. If you ever want to meander through the countryside looking at Christmas lights, sipping hot cocoa out of a travel mug, and humming along to “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” I might not be your companion of choice, not unless you’d like this scene punctuated by cries of “Ugh…that is the ugliest display of Christmas lights I’ve ever seen” or “No!!! What happened to that yard?” or “What did they do just anchor the lights and start running in circles around the tree?” Clearly, there is an ugly, mean girl lying mostly dormant in me that escapes around Christmas.
So, my own tree, while not perfect, is an aspiring work of art that I take my time decorating. I’m a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist. While I’ve mellowed in most areas of life, I confess that I relapse when it comes to the tree. Hence, I am a rabid fan of fake trees. I know that there are individuals on the planet who are rabidly defensive of real trees; they love to shiver in the cold while tramping through rows and rows of trees, inching across the hard ground to get under the tree to laboriously saw through it. They love to hoist it onto the roof rack of the car, scraping off a little paint here and there. They love to drive home hoping the entire way that the wind is not shearing off an entire side of the tree. And, they love to take more time cutting and sawing until the tree sits in the stand level where it will need to be faithfully watered so it doesn’t burst into flames.
I say, Pshh. I’m happy to lug my cardboard box out of the basement each year. The stand snaps together in five seconds flat. The branches will all be there because they were there when I put the tree away last year. And, no watering is necessary. I mean a girl who can’t remember to take a multivitamin probably shouldn’t have to keep a tree alive enough to not become a fire hazard.
To show why fake trees and I are a good match (and to reveal my perfectionistic tendencies), I thought I’d snap a few pictures of the tree assembly process this year.
This is me fitting the tree into the corner. Admittedly, I could have bought a taller, narrower tree. But, I think I snagged this one on clearance before I ever moved into the house. That meant I couldn’t know what type of space would be filled by the tree. A penny saved and all that good stuff (did I mention that fake trees are a cheaper in the long run?)
Rather than taking an hour or so trimming the branches off a real tree, so I can fit it to its environment (ie. the snug corner of the dining room), I just leave some of the branches off the back of the tree. No one is ever the wiser unless I make this step public knowledge, say on my blog or some other such venue.
Then there is the joyful stage of fluffing. Notice the gaps in the tree. But, for a perfectionist like me this is an opportunity not a trial since each and every branch on the tree will bend in response to my every whim. I simply spend a good while fluffing the tree. My sister and I used to have to hold mini-conferences something like international peace treaty meetings to come to a common agreement as to how to fluff the family tree so we didn’t have a tree with half of the branches taking on an upward tilt and half of them taking on a decidedly droopy look.