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The Christmas Tree Incident

We’re decking the halls in my house this week, including erecting a very big Christmas tree in our living room.  It’s gorgeous, with ornaments we’ve collected over our twenty-seven Christmases together. But here’s the thing: we don’t have a real tree.  Blasphemous, I know.  Especially from a Christmas crazy like me, but about fifteen years ago we had what we have come to know in my family as the “Tree Incident.” I’ve told this story before, but wanted to share it again.

The children were 10, 8 and 6 and since our trees always dried out before we were ready to take them down, we decided to go to a tree farm to cut our own. I thought fresher was better.

The day before our outing, youngest was riding his bike, ran over something in the driveway, and flipped over the handlebars. It was a bad fall, but he was wearing a helmet, thank goodness, so his noggin was spared. His mouth, however, not so lucky. The poor kid was a mess. He ended up losing a front tooth from the whole ordeal, but what we knew immediately was that he was in no shape to tree farm. So, I stayed home and watched cartoons with my banged-up little guy, while my daughters and my husband went to find a tree.

I don’t have a big house. I have a modest front-to-back split level, but what I do have is a vaulted ceiling that’s twelve feet at its highest point. I love that I can have a tall tree and my husband and the girls went out to look for our eight-footer.christmasXroom

A few hours and several phone calls later, and my tree farmers pulled in the driveway with a large evergreen lashed to the roof of our station wagon. I was very excited to get it inside and start decorating. And that’s when I noticed it was sticking off the ends of the car. BOTH ENDS. An eight-footer this was not.

Once my husband wrestled the tree in the front door, I looked at the trunk. It had to be a foot in diameter. After hearing the stories about how hard it was to cut down with a hand saw, we tried to stand it up. Needless to say, it did not fit in the tree stand and the top of the tree bent at the ceiling line. Yup. It was over twelve feet tall.

Hubby went out and bought a new tree stand, cut away at the base of the trunk, and eventually the tree stood. Victory! No. We took off the netting and it was like the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when the tree explodes. Fortunately, there was no squirrel, but the tree that was still brushing the ceiling was now taking up half my living room. HALF! And I didn’t have enough lights, or garland or ornaments.

I stared at my husband and my daughters and shook my head. “I wanted a big tree, but not this big!” I said. My husband was cold and tired and I think he might have growled, but it was my middle daughter who put it in perspective. She looked up at the tree with its dense branches and bent top and with hands on her hips said, “It didn’t look that big next to the sky.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

So, after making a few trips for more decorations and lights, the tree was finished. There were too many branches near the floor to put presents under the tree. We had to move several pieces of furniture so we could walk through the room and the star wasn’t square on top, but tilted off to one side. We had to tie it to the stair railing with dental floss because the cat enjoyed climbing into the branches, and the last thing we needed was for the blasted thing to fall and take out the front window.

In the end, we had a good laugh over it. The tree was a great conversation piece and it has been a good story for years. Did it stay fresher than a pre-cut tree? NO! I had more needles
in my house than ever before. I think I was still vacuuming up the ChristmasWishes-FRONTlittle suckers in June.

It was then that we decided to buy a fake tree. We still have it. It fits the room perfectly, but it’s never going to give me a story like the one I just told you.

Do you have a family holiday story that gets told every year?  Share with me.  One commenter will win a signed copy of my new Christmas duet, Christmas Wishes, which contains my novellas This Christmas and Finding Christmas.  (18 to enter, US and Canada only. Comments will close on December 11th, 2015.)



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    16 Responses to The Christmas Tree Incident

    1. denise says:

      That’s a wonderful story. WE have a faux tree, too.

      I have to read my kids several variations of A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS, the version they love the best is the Pennsylvania-German one. I can channel the dialect from my family, and the kids are rolling on the floor by the time I’m done with Belsnickel.

    2. Tammy Cook says:

      My family went back & forth between live & fake trees. One year my mom, my brother’s girlfriend (who is now his wife 20+ years later) & I decided we’d go out in the woods on my parents farm & chop down our own tree. After walking around for awhile & discarding numerous trees for various reasons, we’d found the perfect tree, until we got home & it wouldn’t fot through the door! We had to chop & cut to get it inside. Then when it finally stood up, uh oh it was lopsided. lol we ended up tying branches we’d cut off back on. Needless to say this was the last time we headed to the woods to randomly cut down a poor evergreen! Fake it’s beef ever since!

    3. Sandy Bartles says:

      I can’t think of any that we talk about much, just one we all agree NOT to talk about. The one year my father wasn’t home on Christmas morning to hand out gifts. It is the reason WHY that we don’t talk about! LOL

    4. Shari says:

      I still remember the year I asked for the game, Operation. My brother got the game instead, he kept saying, I didn’t ask Santa for this. My mom explained that Santa must have mixed up our letters. Bless her heart she was a single mom, raising six kids on her own.

    5. Linda Herold says:

      I can relate to Shari’s comment. When I was little I never got the game Operation for Christmas. Many years later my mom bought it for me!

    6. D Roberts says:

      Every year intake my great nieces Charlotte and Madison into town the Sunday before Christmas
      Last year the local rugby club were caroling at the city centre near the shopping mall collecting for local charities

      I stopped and took some video and photos (appreciating their baratone voices belting out the classic jingle bells!”

      U gave Charlotte and Madison money to put in the collection buckets
      Madison shyly declined (she was only 2 and a little overwhelmed)

      Charlotte duly walked over and donated the money
      She stomped back and declared “they’re naked!!!”

      I replied “no sweetie they’re wearing their rugby shorts and Santa hats ”

      She countered “they’ve no vests on … THEY’RE NAKED!”

      The Presbyterian is strong in this one lol

    7. Peggy Dixon says:

      My Dad and his brothers were very competitive over their Christmas trees. They would rib each other endlessly over imperfections. One year my Dad had chosen and erected his tree. Like yours, an 8 footer that required much adjustment to fit the stand and the ceiling. Once it stood upright (with the help of fishing line to anchor it to the wall) it became obvious there was a bald spot mid tree at one side. Too late to turn it he drilled holes in the trunk and inserted branches the had been removed from the bottom and glued them in. A perfect solution, unless you have 5 children that think this is the best story ever!!
      My Dad has been gone for 20+ years but that memory hits me fresh every Christmas when our tree goes up. Merry Christmas to you and your family Jeannie.

    8. Deborah says:

      We too are in the “fake” tree camp. We caved when we lived in TX. Trees down there have “traveled” to get there, so they just don’t last. Not worth the constant vacuuming up of the needles. Our Christmas story has to be the story of our tree topper. It was purchased after Christmas on clearance for less than $5. It’s a light up star with various settings. Honestly, it’s kind of tacky, but I absolutely love it. We’ve had it 20 years at this point and when it doesn’t work anymore, I’m going to be completely heartbroken. Best $5 ever spent.

    9. Diana Tidlund says:

      Why we don’t do fake trees is because in the 70’s my aunt had one like everyone Else and it got pushed up against the electric heater boards and burnt down part of the house because it caught fire. After that we all get rid of our fig trees in that real trees and I never had a problem

    10. Kathleen Shaputis says:

      My childhood is filled with stuffed animals, they were my friends, my confidants. So imagine one Christmas I get a “talking” lion. He had a string in his back and his mouth moved up and down. Priceless. Unfortunately, I also had two toddling nieces who came to visit their grandparents on Christmas day and what did the grownups do but use my lion to entertain the babies. Well, the string broke and so did my heart. My parents bought me a new one later, but it wasn’t the same. I have always been conscious during the holiday to ensure my daughter or grandchildren do not endure the same heart break if at all possible.

    11. Mary says:

      Right before we were transferred to Alaska, we decided to go on the ranch with our friends and chop down our Christmas trees. We had done it with my dad when we were growing up in Central Florida. So one Saturday the 4 of us traipsed through the woods to find 2 perfect trees. Setting ours up that night our daughter was excited to see the lights twinkling as we started putting the ornaments on and her laughter when they slid right off the branch! Nothing would stay on! That can be devastating to a two year old. So my dad and husband drove to town and bought one. Later we stopped by our friends’ house and was amazed to see their tree decorated. They had the same problem and ended up tying their ornaments to the branches. We still talk about this when we get together at Christmas.

    12. bn100 says:

      no, we don’t

    13. Angie Thompson says:

      When my sons were little I always read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. One year, as a joke, I read The Cajun Night Before Christmas and they loved it!! From then on, no more Clement Moore. Up until the year my younger son was 15, someone read the Cajun version. If we hadn’t lost him in 2008, we would probably still read it every year!

    14. Eileen Aberman-Wells says:

      I love your story. We don’t celebrate Christmas, so no tree. But my in-laws did, alternating flock trees with plain. It was fun to see and help decorate the years we went to visit for Christmas. I’ve always encouraged my kids to share the holidays with friends so that they may have memories of decorating.

    15. jeanne sheats says:

      I’ve been getting a real tree for 46 yrs. I hated when my parents switched to a fake one. I also started a tradition of having a tree trimming party. But life changes – my husband got laid off early this year and we have to cut back. My daughter and her new husband moved into a big house so it was wonderful that she was able to have the tree trimming with even more relatives. I know my husband felt bad for me so he said we were going to go get a small, real tree. It was between two trees and it’s almost as big as I always get and he always use to complain lol. My two grown kids are coming with their husband and boyfriend this Friday and although not a big party I’m thrilled to pieces. And we always watch Christmas Vacation while decorating 🙂

    16. Penney Wilfort says:

      Beautiful! I love your story! The only one I can think of is my Mom buying a real tree one year and we had a bad time with it as the 3 cats would get up inside of it and knock down the glass balls they would break. What really made her mad as the little dog we had was chasing the cat and the cat ran up the tree and the little dog we had tried to go too in the end the tree fell over on top of Mom. I still laugh at that.
      Merry Christmas!

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