Inklings: Christmas trees, real and not


By Janice Lindsay

Inklings: Christmas trees, real and notEvery Christmas I say, “Maybe this year we should have a real tree instead of our artificial one.” Every year, we don's. Our artificial tree is a tradition.

The first Christmas of our marriage, my husband and I installed a real tree. Just after Christmas, we both came down with one of those horrible colds that make your head feel like a bowling ball on a stick. After a couple of days in bed, I dragged myself to the living room to check on the tree. Neither of us had felt well enough to water it.

Needles speckled the floor, making a wide needley circle on the gold carpet.

I was too lacking in energy to fetch the vacuum cleaner. I found the dustpan and brush. Simple enough, I thought, to sweep up the needles.

The needles had other ideas.

The synthetic brush, scuffling along the synthetic carpet, created static that awoke the slumbering needles. They allowed themselves to be swept into the dustpan. But suddenly, they awoke and compulsively jumped back out, adhering themselves to the carpet. The more I brushed, the more they adhered. Being a person of common sense, I went back to bed.

I don's remember finally removing the carpet needles, whose numbers increased as our cold germs diminished. But I vividly remember vowing, in my viral misery, that we would never again have a real tree.

I know now that this was unfair to real trees. Lots of people enjoy having real trees that make it through the whole season with no needle-on-the-rug disasters.

But it doesn's seem like Christmas unless we assemble our tree, poking the ends of make-believe branches into corresponding holes in the make-believe trunk. It is not true, as poet Joyce Kilmer wrote that “only God can make a tree.” I can, too, sort of.

Probably all the real evergreen trees around our house shake their branches in disgust when they peer into our window at Christmastime and see a tree-like structure that grew, not from the soil as they did, but from the primeval ooze that became petroleum that became plastic that became needle-like objects twisted into metal stems.

However, those real trees outside will have to admit that I have tried to include them in our Christmas traditions. But they have a fatal flaw. They grow.

When we moved into our house, a single baby balsam, only 18 inches high, was hiding among the grasses in the small field behind the house. When that tree grew to be about four feet tall, I decorated it with bright red outside Christmas tree balls. I tied a velvety bow on its tip. The tree looked both regal and cozy out there in the field, all by itself, against the backdrop of grown-up evergreens at the edge of the woods 40 feet away.

When the little tree was five feet tall, it was a perfect Christmas tree.

Soon it was six feet tall. I had to reach up to bend the top toward me so I could place the bow.

The ground around the tree is too uneven for a ladder. So when the tree reached seven feet tall, it had to retire from its relatively short career as a Christmas tree.

It stands there now, still regal but no longer cozy. At Christmastime, it seems a bit sad, perhaps missing its bright red balls, and perhaps just a bit jealous of that gaily-bedecked phony it views through our living room window.

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