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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.)