Every Christmas when I was a kid my dad would take my sister and I to go pick out a Christmas tree together while my mom stayed home and dug out the holiday decorations. We weren’t cut-your-own-tree people but we always bought a real tree from one of a few small places in town. My sister and I would wander around looking at every tree they had while taking in that wonderful evergreen scent that just screams “Christmas is coming!” After browsing for way too long my dad would start to throw out suggestions until we all agreed on a nice tree. M dad would pay for the tree and then my sister and I would watch from the car while he painstakingly tied the tree to the roof with frozen fingers. We would bring it home, pop it in the stand and groan when we were told we had to give it a day to settle before we could decorate.
My husband’s family did things differently. When he was 4 or 5 his family’s house caught fire while they were away. They lost a lot of their possessions and had to move. They ended up building a new house and moved in near the end of the year. By the time they settled in to their new home, Christmas was coming soon. The artificial tree they used to put up was one of the things they lost in the fire so Joe’s mom went out to the store and bought the first fake tree she could find. It was a small, spindly tree but she figured they would just use it that year and then buy a bigger, nicer one the following year. But that never happened. Every year they would talk about getting a new tree, but in the end they always wanted to use that same scraggly tree.
When Joe and I spent our first Christmas together in our little apartment, we were both excited to get our first tree together. I had visions of wandering through stores smelling of pine and choosing a cute little tree with long dark needles. Joe, on the other hand, was dreaming of going to a big store, looking through the display of artificial trees, and choosing the one that we would put up year after year. When we realized how different our visions were, we were surprised. I couldn’t imagine Christmas without that real tree smell. Joe couldn’t picture getting a tree every year just to throw it out at the end of the season. We went back and forth for weeks but in the end my stubbornness wasn’t a match for Joe’s laid-back attitude and he gave in.
Joe still didn’t like the idea of throwing the tree out every year and he hated the way the needles fell off everywhere but he did come to like the tree. Every winter after that we continued the tradition and picked out a new real tree.
Until this year.
This year, something changed. This year I have an almost-toddler who is into absolutely everything. I knew that I would be spending my day trying to keep him out of the tree’s water and stop him from eating the needles he pulled out of the tree. I knew that the living room that he spends much of the day playing in would soon be full of pine needles that would jab him in the hands and feet (and if you’ve ever stepped on one, you know those suckers hurt!). I just couldn’t justify doing that this year.
When I told Joe I was leaning toward getting an artificial tree, he was thrilled. The next day the three of us headed to the store to pick out our tree. We browsed through the small selection, chose the perfect tree and loaded the box into the car. We came home, put it together and decorated it with lights and ornaments.
And you know what? It still felt like Christmas. In fact, there were some advantages to a fake tree. We didn’t have to stand outside trying to tie the tree to the roof or fit it in the back of the car. We didn’t have to wait for the tree to settle before decorating it. And best of all, after vacuuming up plastic needles once (right after decorating) there hasn’t been any upkeep. No more vacuuming and no watering! I do miss that pine smell, but there are always candles for that!