Oh, Christmas Tree

My husband and I originally planned to put up our Christmas tree today, the first Saturday of the month. Last Friday, though, it occurred to me that the first weekend of December falls awfully late this year. (This realization may or may not have been linked to the abundance of tree-decorating posts that had begun jamming my social media feeds.) It only made sense, I told my husband, and myself, to get our tree a few days earlier than I’d pencilled into my/our Christmas schedule.

My husband agreed much more readily than I anticipated he would, and so this past Sunday we went to buy a tree where we usually do, a lot that sets up next to our local grocery store every year and that donates sales proceeds to a homeless shelter.

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the process of choosing a Christmas tree stressful. In the moment, it feels as if the stakes are really high. It isn’t that I want the tree to look as if it were made of plastic, purchased in a store. Quite the opposite, in fact—I want there to be no mistake that this is a real tree that we need to water and whose needles we’re forced to sweep up. A tree requiring our labour and love. A tree that poses a fire hazard.

Knowing that it’s inevitable that I’ll become overwhelmed at the tree lot, I have a mental tree-candidate checklist designed to ease things along. My ideal tree

  • has a reasonably nice shape on at least three sides
  • smells like a Christmas tree
  • has a good number of strong branches to hold heavier ornaments
  • is more or less straight from top to bottom
  • lacks gaping holes (those enormous enough to embarrass both us and it)
  • can accommodate the Christmas hedgehog we use as a tree-topper

Of course, I forget most of these criteria when we get to the lot and I’m staring, deer-in-the-headlights style, at one tree after another as my husband holds them up for me to evaluate.

We both liked the first tree we saw at the lot this year. It had clearly been rejected by multiple potential buyers due to its noticeably flat back, but what made it flawed in the eyes of some was, for us, a potential benefit since it would make the tree fit more easily in front of a bookshelf, where we would set it up anyway. It checked all the boxes of my weirdo list. More importantly, we were drawn to it. Christmas magic and all that.

As is common knowledge, however, you can’t immediately buy the very first tree you find, even if—especially if—you’re ninety-nine percent certain that you eventually will. (There had to be a catch. Other than its one extremely flat side, that is.) And so we kept looking for a while as I became less and less able to handle doing so. When the salesperson, likely sensing our increasing desperation, came to ask if she could help, I replied: “Yeah; would you mind finding two or three, I guess, uh, perfect trees for us?”

“Well,” she calmly said, “that’s tricky. Everyone’s idea of ‘perfect’ is different.” Wise words. She pulled a few trees—I didn’t like any of them—while my husband shot me amused, “this better be a lesson to you about perfectionism blah blah blah” glances.

We bought that beautiful tree with the flat side.

Slightly different angles of our tree.

The decorating process, now complete, requires a post of its own.

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