Have I ever told you the story about the time The Native and I bought our first real Christmas tree?
No? Well, you’re in for a treat.
When I was growing up, every year just after Thanksgiving, my family would make that long journey to our cold, unfinished basement to pull out the box that held our artificial Christmas tree. It sounds like a magical time, doesn’t it?
But the truth is I never really thought about it. In fact, I loved it. I never questioned whether this was an inferior way to do Christmas until I met the real tree enthusiasts of the world.
It started with my best friend from aged 13. With a lilt in her voice that only the spirit of Christmas can bring, she described how excited she was to go and choose the tree, to trim it, to let the smell fill their small ranch house. I listened intently and felt a pang of sadness. Had we been doing Christmas wrong? Was I missing out year on year as we erected our tree in a box?
I went around to her house expecting to bask in the natural glow that would emanate from this gift to the world – real Christmas. I opened the door and looked it up and down, waiting for its glory to shine upon me.
There was no glow. There was no basking. It was asymmetrical with a fat bottom.
Years passed. I got married. And when you marry, you marry someone else’s habits, their lifestyle and their Christmas traditions. And let me first say – they are not wrong, they are different from yours. (They are different….they are different…..)
The Native was from a real tree family. Our best friends were real tree enthusiasts. It was time. In spite of a little asymmetry and necessary pruning, I was ready to discover that love for a real tree that existed somewhere deep inside me.
It was exciting. We’d only been married a couple of months and it would be one of the first traditional things we had done together. We were young. We were in love. We were ready to buy our first tree.
And then we started shopping.
The Native wants to go, select, buy and come home. I treat it as a challenge to find the alpha tree…..the one tree to rule them all.
The rules are:
• It must be of equal height or taller than both of us (he is 6ft+)
• It must be low drop – big brown makes hoovering challenging enough
• It must not be too sparse. This ain’t no Charlie Brown Christmas, people.
• It must not be obese. British homes are small. If it’s too fat it will easily take up half the room.
He started to lose the will to live as I held one tree up against another listing the reasons this one was that bit better than the other (….or was it?). After comparing no less than 20 trees, we finally settled on a Norwegian Fir that we dubbed “Norman.” For as my brother says, all significant things in our lives must be given names.
It seemed the worst was behind us. Until The Native insisted that the way to erect our tree was with a terracotta pot. I couldn’t understand how this would act as a tree stand (would we get compost for it?!) – but I trusted it. He was the real tree pro.
I don’t know when things really started to fall apart. It could have been when we lugged it through our lounge and needles flew everywhere. It may have been when, at my insistence, we tried to chop off the bottom of the tree stump with a blunt hacksaw. But I think it was most likely when The Native was scouring through our garden to find large stones to fill the terracotta pot to try and get the tree to stand in an upright position. It was leaning, and then leaning some more, then falling on me a little, and then leaning approximately 15° off centre when The Native was insisting it was now straight. It was then that I no longer saw the romance in buying a real Christmas tree.
We would try for a few more years and each year, with some variation (we’d give up the sawing, not the list), the anticipation would build, but the reality of our experience of buying a real Christmas tree just wouldn’t measure up.
This year we knew we’d not get much time out of Christmas tree since we’ll be visiting family. We decided it was time to buy an artificial tree.
We walked into Homebase. We looked at the line-up of those glorious imposters. Within minutes I moved towards one that was 65% off. I pointed and said, “That one is nice.” The Native grabbed that tree in a box, turned to me, grinned and said, “Best Christmas ever.”