We were more than an hour off schedule when “the guy” (as Levi likes to call all males) finally loaded our Christmas tree onto the top of the mini-van. I sat in the front seat drained of energy while Levi pressed all the buttons on the dashboard. I looked with horror at the needles falling into the van and thought ahead to the much worse mess we would have to clean up later at home. I fretted that we had chosen the “wrong” tree (I was wrong), and I fretted that Levi wouldn’t fall asleep at such a late hour (I was right). I fretted because I had no energy left, and we were only half way through the day. None of this was in keeping with my holiday season motto: “be excited, not stressed.”
Tree buying should be fun, right? Or am I wrong about that? Does everyone find Christmas tree selection as stressful as Dawn and I do (and they just take pictures where they are proudly beaming because they too have to prove that it is fun)? Two Christmases ago (before Levi, but while nearly full term) we ended up going to five different tree farms/sellers before finally settling on a tree. The Christmas before that we also did a fair amount of traveling from place to place. What we seem to be looking for is a real tree that looks artificial. We are searching for perfection in nature, which is based on chaos. All tree farms/sellers basically have the same thing: trees. Some of them are full, some skinny, some tall, some squat, some have gaping holes between the branches, some have branches that jut out at impossible angles. Not one of them is (or ever will be) perfect. When we will learn this? And learn to embrace it?
Last year, after our tree dropped almost all of its needles before Christmas arrived, we considered buying an artificial tree, thinking we might get a good end-of-season sale. We didn’t follow through. This year on Cyber Monday I started half-purposefully browsing through artificial trees online. There were some good deals. It was tempting, but I just couldn’t do it.
I grew up with live trees. It was never a thought to have a fake tree in our house. The first Christmas that Dawn and I were together (thirteen years ago), we went to our local city park and bought a tree off of the tennis courts, under the lights, sipping hot cocoa, while snow gently fell. It was romantic and, well, perfect. Her house was so tiny that we could only really fit a Charlie Brown sized tree in there, but the tree we bought that first year was huge. It wouldn’t stay standing, so we tied it to the ceiling. It took over the entire living room, but we didn’t care (ah…young love…). Every year after that we’d return to those tennis courts and get our tree. We got better each year at selecting a size appropriate tree for the house. The year they stopped selling those trees in the city was the year our downward spiral of Christmas tree selection began.
On Saturday we vowed that our Christmas tree shopping would be quick, fun, and stress-free. We both agreed to keep it simple, go to one place, make a quick decision and be happy with it. After all, Levi is still too young to really enjoy the event, and the past four years have proven that the fun has become lost on us. After striking out at the first seller because they didn’t have any trees tall enough (well, they had two, but they were so, so sad looking), we went to a local gardening supply store. They have an abundance of live trees and an abundance of artificial trees inside. As we stood out in the cold, hefting tree after tree off the stand, while Levi crawled onto every available surface when he wasn’t squishing his little body in between the trees, I couldn’t help but fight off this urge to just march inside, grab an artificial tree and be done with the whole thing. While I stood there having this argument repeatedly in my head, Dawn kept muttering, “We are just too much perfectionists to have a real tree. We are artificial tree people.”
And that is the existential problem I am grappling with: Am I a real tree or an artificial tree person!? Should I let my desire for perfection get in the way of my core belief that having a real tree is inherently “better” for a whole host of reasons ranging from family tradition to environmental and economic? In the end, I don’t think we will succumb the allure of the artificial tree with its needles that stay put and its perfectly distributed branches (sigh). We want Levi to have the real tree experience that I had as a kid. We want for perfection to not rule our lives always (did I just say that?). We want to smell the inviting pine as we crawl around with the dust-buster beneath the tree.
Most of all though we want to say happy holiday season one and all!