Advent Day Three and Four: Get and Decorate the Christmas Tree

First of all you should know that the fetching of the Christmas tree is a total and complete emotional minefield for me.  When I was growing up in Oregon, we always cut down our Christmas tree, mostly from Christmas tree farms but one time from an old lady’s front yard, after my mom marched up to her front door and told her that her trees really needed thinning and she’d be happy to do it for her.  True story.

Anyway, in my family, growing up, we ALWAYS cut down our Christmas tree.  Now my mom has moved back to Vermont and she’s raising chickens and she cooks bear on a wood stove and she got a chain saw for her birthday.  I have no idea where she’s getting her tree this year but I’m guessing she’s doing it in the most vermonty manner one can possible get a tree.

Like by sleigh.  Horse drawn sleigh.  Yes.  Probably that.

Erik and I have cut down our fair share of Christmas trees, but then we had two kids and we just got tired.  We wearied of paying $65 dollars for a tree that we had to cut down ourselves while everyone else on our street had perfectly lovely trees they’d gotten at Home Depot.  So now we get our tree at Home Depot, and it costs $25 dollars and it’s a two minute drive and it is a nice tree and so easy.  And plus my kids are 4 and less than 2.  They won’t even remember this.  When it counts and they can remember, maybe we’ll go cut up the mountains and cut down a $65 tree, but for now, I take the easy and cheap way out.

It doesn’t matter though.   Every year my mom asks about our tree  and every year when I have to tell her we picked it up in the Home Depot parking lot, I cringe.  A lot.  This year I think my cringing was coming across loud and clear on the phone because she actually said to me “Hey, you don’t have to justify it to me.  Just because you’re a complete sell out.”

So yeah.  Too lazy and tired to go cut down the tree, but still emotionally manipulated into feeling like a jerk about it.

Obviously, the tree fetching was a total disaster.  It was so terrible I honestly felt like I was living a cliche as it happened.

Katie had been up all night long the night before, and collectively Erik and I had gotten about three hours of sleep.  She slept all day, ruining all our plans to get the tree early and go out to breakfast, and she was still in a terrible mood when she finally woke up and she cried all the way to Home Depot, all through the parking lot, and all the way home.  I still had delusions about what a wonderful time this was going to be, so I insisted that we stop off at Starbucks on the way there so I could be sipping something delicious as we meandered happily through the tree lot, and I brought Eli in with me and VERY CLEARLY explained that I was getting Katie a cake pop and that he could get a cake pop too OR something else but he could not have both, and so of course he chose orange juice, and then spent the entire time we were picking out our tree LOSING HIS DAMN MIND over the fact that he didn’t have a cake pop and his sister did.   Erik almost had a throw down with some lady who had chosen the busiest Christmas tree getting day of the year to buy five trees, throw them down in the middle of the parking lot, and declare herself “in line”, and at various points through out the experience Erik and I had fights about when to go, what the kids would wear, who would drive, whether or not to go to Starbucks, what tree we should get, who should take what screaming kid, how to unwrap a christmas tree, where the line was, how to get the tree on the car, why that weird dude was giving us weird looks (can’t imagine), how many pointsettias to buy, citrus tree fertilizer, white lights, and whether or not we should just call off Christmas all together.  Blargh.

Oh, it was a terrible day.  A really terrible day.  Here’s a visual representation, for you non verbal learners:

Decorating the tree on Sunday was better.  Erik finally wrestled it into the World’s Worst Christmas Tree Stand and put the lights on and when I got home from shopping with Amy, the second I walked in the door there was Eli, screaming “We can decorate the tree now! Mom’s home!”   This was the  most excited I’ve seen him for any Christmas thing ever.  He actually helped hang ornaments on the tree, and he’s never wanted to do that before.  It wasn’t quite the “hot chocolate popcorn christmas carols” extravaganza I have in my head as the Christmas Tree Decorating Ideal, but it gives me hope that we’ll get there, someday.  All the low branches with the three ornaments crammed onto the ends are pretty adorable too.  Eli is VERY proud of his ornament hanging, and in fact at the end of it told me, thoughtfully: “Hmmm. Mom, I am much better at this than you are!”  Awesome.






17 Responses

  1. I love the ending of this post! Also, Eli’s sweater is perfect. Love it.

  2. I’ve done the home depot thing as well and it’s always awful. They do have cheap, nice trees though. It was even awful without kids so don’t feel bad! Last year we took Anna to a smaller nursery to get a tree and it was OK – but people are so creepy. I felt like whenever I was closely inspecting a tree, that would make other people want it more. So weird. So this year the live tree delivery thing was nice. Yes, the tree has some funky holes and I never would have selected it from a lot but it doesn’t matter because it showed up at our door.

  3. I love the photo for non-verbal learners!

  4. See, I got tired of how expensive the real trees are and how they shed and how they are a pain in the ass to put in the stand and there is always, always something wrong with them with a gappy place or they are too dry already and the ever-present Fire Hazard! thing just eats me alive at night and when we’re away from the house.

    I made Chris buy me a fake tree for our first Christmas together and it is on its eighth Christmas this year. It still lights up, it still looks pretty good and I’m certain we’ve spent less on it than we would have 8 real trees. (In Texas, a nice tree can get kind of pricey!)

    We always had real trees growing up though, and I have fond memories of selecting the tree from various lots and sometimes we cut them ourselves depending on where we lived. I also have memories of my dad cussing a lot when trying to get the tree put up/taken down/in the car/on top of the car, etc.

    Real trees are so great when they work out but my experience with many years of real and many of fake? I LOVE MY FAKE TREE SO MUCH. My mom has a fake tree on a ROTATING stand, which is so cool because they have a TON of ornaments so it slowly turns all the time, which is kind of a nice thing to look at.

    My grandparents have a interesting system: they put the tree outside on their deck, which is right outside the living room. They have a wall of windows so you can see it just fine, but it stays nice and fresh for a LONG time and you don’t have to deal with the inside-ness of a tree. They don’t decorate it all up like an inside tree (red velvet bows only) but it’s still pretty.

    • Yeah, Erik has informed me that hell would literally freeze over before he’d get a fake tree, so that’s basically never going to happen, no matter how great I think it might be.

    • I love my fake tree too.

  5. Now, I’ve always done a fake tree, so I always feel like anyone who does a live tree at all is MILES ahead of me. Even if your tree does come from the Home Depot (my tree is also from Home Depot, only inside and last year), it hadn’t even occurred to me that there was a “right” place to get a live tree from. Anyway, my point is that you beat me on Christmas treeing! 😉

  6. I had visions of tree decorating greatness and those visions did NOT come to fruition on Sunday. Instead, Ezra and Iris watched “Max and Ruby” and T worked on spreadsheets. I decorated by myself and became Very Surly by the end.

    Good times.

  7. We have the same fight every year about the damn Christmas tree stand. And every year, we buy a new stand to try to stave off the inevitable fight. I’m hoping we’ll come off more like George Burns and Gracie Allen and less like the couple in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the kids’ memories

  8. I grew up in Washington and we always went out to a tree farm that was just high enough in the mountains that they always! had! snow! Which was great except we never seemed to dress warmly enough (probably because moon boots are ugly). My mom would post us at different trees here and there as a bookmark, of sorts, until she decided on the best one. I remember lots of complaining about being cold and isn’t this tree good enough and COME ON MOM CAN’T WE GO HAVE HOT CHOCOLATE NOW??! I’m sure it was loads of fun for my parents. Also, the old lady that owned the farm had a little beard. And we weren’t supposed to stare at it. So.

    My mom always said that the closest my parents ever came to getting divorced was every year during the tree buying/putting it in the stand/covering it with lights process. They’ve been married 45 years and now she just does it all herself. Much better, I think!

  9. If it makes you feel any better, for the entirety of my adult life I have picked out, bought and put up the Christmas tree from Home Depot (or equivalent) BY MYSELF. The kids (2, 5 and 7) do like to help decorate, but I have abandoned any misty, romantic family tree cutting adventures. It’s just bound to be a disaster with the kids and my husband is not Christian so didn’t grow up with a Christmas tree tradition. And I grew up on 15 acres near Lake Tahoe and we cut down a tree FROM OUR OWN PROPERTY.

    I don’t even really mind. I would like the kids to be old enough so that decorating is. Fun family event, but this year I’m still doing a large-ish (4 ft) table top tree do I don’t have to worry about the 2 year old. We’ll get there, I figure.

  10. I’ve just stopped trying so hard. I’ve realized that no one puts the guilt on Christmas except for me. The kids could care less if we have a real tree or a fake tree or if it’s on the counter or 8′ tall an in the middle of the family room. If it lights up and they can hang something shiny on it, they are thrilled. Same goes with the decorating, the food, even most of the gifts. They just don’t care as much as Mom does. And while I’m not saying that I’ve given up completely, I take it all much less personally than I used to. Knowing that they are thrilled with almost anything Christmas related takes the burden off me to make it HAPPY and SHINY and so frickin’ MERRY every day of December, and I’m a happier person for it. I guess what I’m saying is that for me, it’s good to have traditions & to want to create those happy memories, but it’s better to just try and let it happen organically. We do an advent calendar & I switch activities every week because sometimes I just can’t face whatever is coming up. Try to relax & bear in mind that for them, it will be merry and bright no matter what happens.

  11. Oh I’m sorry to laugh at your misery but I did, I laughed. Thanks for the photo for non-verbal learners.

    We have yet to purchase our tree but we will go and cut one down next week while trying to keep my girls from sawing off their fingers. This is right about the time I start wishing like crazy for a damn plastic tree.

  12. Well, now I feel less bad about my decision to exclude the kids from the whole process. My dad and my husband picked up the tree and put it up, and my mom and I did the decorating. All while the kids were sleeping. And now my only job is to tell them, “DON’T TOUCH THE TREE” every 36 seconds or so.

  13. This was pretty much our experience too, only add in my two kids playing in a pile of ice melt, covering themselves and me, and necessitating a call to poison control after my son got some in his mouth.

    In case you care for some company in that misery:

  14. Ugh – I hate that so much of Christmas revolves around that feeling of “doing it right.” (Who am I kidding? A lot of my LIFE revolves around that feeling.) I sense many deep disappointments in my future.

    Love the picture for non-verbal learners – very expressive! And I’m glad the actual trimming of the tree went well.

  15. First of all, we get our tree at Home Depot. I tried every local place in town and you know what? They cost more and don’t last as long. Second, let me tell you the best way for a type A, organization nut such as yourself to handle the Christmas Tree:
    It’s a proven strategy. Who says Christmas is all about togetherness? Not me.

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